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Gensler reveals £75m Edinburgh blueprint

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Gensler faces a tense meeting with the Scottish Royal Fine Art Commission next week over its competition-winning design for a £75 million office, housing, retail and arts centre complex just off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

Its scheme, in conjunction with property developer Sofam and the Cuckfield Group, is the second attempt to build on the 1ha disused bus depot site but the architect says it has already encountered some objections from the Scottish Civic Trust, and conservation group the Cockburn Association. Complaints have particularly focused on the scheme's effect on the topology of the Waverley Valley.

'I think the buildings start too high because this development will set a benchmark for the redevelopment of the entire valley from the station to the new parliament, ' said Cockburn director Martin Hulse.

Gensler vice president David Bartlett said that the layout of the buildings attempts to echo the World Heritage city's fish skeleton street plan. The office and housing blocks are planned in a series of slender buildings running perpendicular to the valley spine. The areas between these buildings will be pedestrianised. 'The scheme maintains the herring-bone pattern of the city and is very much part of the Waverley Valley strategy, ' said Bartlett.

The roofs of the buildings are designed to undulate and mirror the city's surrounding hills and will be landscaped with gorse and heather, perhaps in a tartan pattern, by Californian landscape architect Peter Walker & Partners.

The scheme, superimposed on the aerial photograph below, will consist of 20,000m 2of new office space, a 250-bedroom four-star hotel, 30 housing units and a new arts cinema.

Edinburgh-based Hackland + Dore Architects has been picked as the local consulting architect, while Gensler will manage the job from its London office. But Gensler will not build one of the most radical elements to the scheme. It wants to win outline planning consent for a new footbridge across the valley which will connect the Scottish Executive building to the new Enric Miralles/RMJM-designed Scottish parliament at Holyrood, allowing pedestrians to pass through the new development. Bartlett said he envisages an international architectural competition for what will be the fourth crossing across the valley.

Consultees have so far welcomed this proposal as increasing the permeability of the city. The scheme will be submitted for detailed planning permission in October.

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