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Competition: Custom House, Leith

Custom House, Leith
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Scottish Historic Buildings Trust is recruiting a design team for a £5-to-7 million overhaul of Leith’s Category A-listed Custom House

The winner of the estimated £20,000 contract will complete a feasibility study, and then design and deliver a major restoration and conversion of the landmark Neoclassical-style structure which was formerly an archive of the National Museum of Scotland, but has been disused since 2015 and is now in a deteriorating state.

The project will transform the Robert Reid-designed 1812 complex into a heritage and learning hub celebrating the rich history of Leith and featuring spaces for artists and other cultural activities.

In its brief, the trust says: ‘Whether the design is for a light touch or a substantial reconfiguration, we welcome a highly creative approach. Our view is not restricted to solely that of high-quality conservation, we also have an aspiration to bring exceptional design talent and vision to the project, and this means we are open to the most inventive of suggestions.

‘Due regard needs to be given to the listing of the building and its heritage but we also need to look to the future of the building and explore the opportunities to draw attention to Custom House, create a delight in the experience of the building, and give it back its place and position in the heart of Leith. All options explored must have a historic artefact display element, one option will have this as a central focus, but all options must include this either as a stand-alone feature or an aspect of the design that is spread through the building.’

Leith is an ancient coastal settlement 3km north of central Edinburgh. Custom House, which overlooks the shore and historic harbour, was built in 1812 to a design by Robert Reid which was later modified by William Burn.

The building was used for various official purposes and featured a post office up until 1980 before being used as storage for the National Museum of Scotland. The deteriorating complex was acquired by the City of Edinburgh Council in 2015.

Scottish Historic Buildings Trust has been granted the building on a five-year lease which will be extended to 99 years following the agreement of a sustainable business plan. The project aims to restore the structure and create a new landmark cultural and heritage facility for local residents and visitors.

Bids will be evaluated 70 per cent on quality and 30 per cent on cost. The initial £20,000 budget covers the feasibility study only.

The deadline for applications is midday, 11 March.

How to apply

View the contract notice for more information

Contact details

Richard Shorter
Scottish Historic Buildings Trust
Riddle’s Court
322 Lawnmarket

Tel: +44 1312201232
Email: projects@shbt.org.uk 

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