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3DReid switches student digs for offices at Edinburgh World Heritage site

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3DReid has put forward radically altered plans for a site on Edinburgh’s historic Canongate after a previous application was withdrawn

Earlier this year the practice asked planners for permission to build a 91-flat scheme featuring an off-white façade on the Canongate plot in the middle of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Developer Summix said the proposal to partially demolish the former gasworks would rejuvenate a ‘neglected’ part of Edinburgh’s Old Town. However, it later pulled the application before The City of Edinburgh Council could formally rule on it.

The new application by 3DReid is for a lower, co-working office building, arranged over four storeys. The total floor space in the building, at 1,900m², is a reduction on the 3,200m² floorspace over five floors which was proposed for the student apartments. 

A switch in façade colour came after discussions with the local authority and Historic Environment Scotland, which felt a salmon-coloured brick was ‘more sympathetic’ with the conservation area, according to Summix.

A spokesperson for the developer said the decision to change building use from student housing to office block was made after ‘various revisions’ to the first planning application made it less viable in the eyes of the council.

But he also said: ‘These proposals will […] help to tackle Edinburgh’s burgeoning crisis in available office space provision, especially in Edinburgh city centre.’

And he added: ‘The plans represent a collaborate discussion about how best to make this site work.’

The new building would be located near the Category A-listed structures of Canongate Kirk church, dating to 1691, and Canongate Tolbooth, built in 1591.

Architect’s view – 3DReid associate director Chris Dobson

The office use [creates] a more malleable and articulated form, more liberating than a student bed module and one which could positively integrate and engage with residual historic built fabric on the site, which sits at the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and in close proximity to the A-Listed Canongate Kirk and Canongate Tolbooth buildings.

This capacity for greater expression also extends to the roof form, which is particularly important here, due to elevated views that are present from the nearby Calton Hill.

The change in materials is derived from our further studies into the surrounding context, the building being conceived as a contemporary reading of the Scots Baronial style that is quite prevalent within the local context, with tones being drawn from this, in addition to the retained brickwork of the industrial quality of the former city gasworks (which previously occupied this site) and hues of the local sandstone.

Project data

Location Canongate, Edinburgh
Local authority The City of Edinburgh Council
Type of project Office accommodation
Client Summix CGE Developments
Architect 3DReid
Planning consultant Turley
Structural engineer Will Rudd Davidson
M&E consultant Arcadis
Quantity surveyor Arcadis
Main contractor TBC
Start on site TBC
Gross internal floor area 20,500 sq ft

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