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FIRST LOOK

Page\Park turns former welly factory into printmakers

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Edinburgh Printmakers’ new creative hub is located within the former headquarters of the North British Rubber Company

Located in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, the project involved redeveloping a derelict building into a new multi-use arts complex centred around printmaking production for Edinburgh Printmakers. 

The rubber company once employed over 3,000 people and produced an array of products, including the Hunter boot – during the First World War, over one million boots were made for the army at this factory. Therefore, central to the architectural concept was making precise and simple interventions to facilitate new use while respecting the character of the existing building, which is the only surviving structure from the once large 19th-century Castle Mills industrial complex. 

The brief included provision of two galleries, a shop, café, education space, staff offices, archives, eight creative industries units and a large print studio – for which new architectural elements are light-touch, except for a rear extension. Page\Park has designed a new entrance on to Dundee Street to provide a new public face for the printmakers and offer views into the galleries, reception and shop. 

04 ep jim stephenson new entrance night

The new extension at the back of the scheme subtly moves the heart of the building to create a new central courtyard within which all users can meet. The courtyard also addresses a broader redevelopment of the wider site and is set to become one of a series of public spaces creating pedestrian routes from the canal to Dundee Street.

The print studio located at first-floor level sits in an expansive triple-height former joinery workshop. Historic joist pockets within the raw brick walls have been maintained, cast-iron structure and timber trusses left exposed and marks of previous interior paint colours left untouched. 

Throughout the rest of the scheme, where original fabric was no longer required it has been repurposed. For example, old glazed bricks found behind layers of plaster in the basement have been reused to make a servery counter, while large timber doors have been converted to table tops. Bespoke shop fittings have been crafted out of plywood, steel and rubber in a nod to the industrial heritage. 

Collaborating with visual artist Calum Colvin, Page\Park designed one of the permanent artwork commissions in the building – the EPscope – a synthesis of periscope and kaleidoscope. The team has overlaid a view of the print studio with images of products once made by the rubber company to create a series of abstract patterns.

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Client’s view 

Our two large, high-quality exhibition spaces will host diverse exhibitions and events designed to inspire people to connect with their own creativity. Our printmaking facilities are now two-thirds larger, so we have more equipment and will be able to welcome many more people. Because we have a dedicated learning studio with its own printmaking equipment, all kinds of community groups and education groups will be able to access our facilities and expertise.

This project was a unique opportunity to combine social and architectural heritage with contemporary re-use of a building to return Castle Mills to a place of production once again. Edinburgh Printmakers will be a place for everyone to see, learn, make, talk about and enjoy art.

Shân Edwards, CEO, Edinburgh Printmakers

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Project data

Start on site June 2017
Completion April 2019
Gross internal floor area 2,650m²
Gross (internal + external) floor area 3,070m²
Form of contract Standard Building Contract with Quantities
Construction cost £6.5 million
Construction cost per m² £2,450
Architect Page\Park
Client Edinburgh Printmakers
Structural engineer Will Rudd Davidson
M&E consultant Harley Haddow
QS Doig and Smith
Landscape contractor Advance Construction Scotland
Project manager Gardiner and Theobald
Principal designer Doig and Smith
Main contractor Interserve Construction 
CAD software used Revit

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