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Chipperfield’s £45m Edinburgh concert hall narrowly approved

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Edinburgh City Council’s planning committee has narrowly approved David Chipperfield Architects’ contentious proposals for a £45 million concert hall in St Andrew Square 

After a marathon session, which started at 10am today (24 April) and lasted until nearly 3.30pm, councillors on the development management subcommittee voted six to four in favour of the 1,000-capacity Impact Centre.

The competition-winning scheme, backed by performing arts charitable trust Impact Scotland, includes a 200-seat studio theatre as well as rehearsal, recital and recording spaces. 

The venue will be the new home for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and will be Edinburgh’s first dedicated new space for music and the performing arts in over a century. 

During the meeting, David Chipperfield was grilled about the proposed used of concrete, the 10,000m² scheme’s impact on its surroundings and why the service bay for lorries wasn’t underground.   

Councillor Cameron Rose repeatedly asked about the concrete construction, before eventually voting against the application. He asked: ‘How do you know what this building will look like in 50 years time. To put it provocatively, are you experimenting with us?

In response, Chipperfield said: ‘It is a stone in a concrete base. There is nothing that can go wrong with it. If there are any problems it would be with the fixing of the material [not the exposed finished].

He added: ‘One neighbour [to this scheme] said that concrete was concrete, which sounds like Brexit is Brexit. But all concrete isn’t concrete, nor is Brexit [simply] Brexit.

‘The pejorative attitude people have towards concrete and quite rightly comes from the engineering concrete from the 1960s which stains when it rains. But we’ve been working with concrete for the last 20 to 30 years.

‘Here we would be mixing in local stone as an aggregate. It will be a substantial cladding that will give the impression that it will be a stone building [although] I’m not pretending it is not concrete.’

Chipperfield pointed to its use in his Museum of Modern Literature in Marbach which won the Stirling Prize in 2007. 

Talking about its location and setting, councillor Hal Osler said: ‘My concern is that we found the site and shoehorned something into the site. The scale and proportion is inappropriate.’

However Chipperfield had previously stated: ‘The building will be sitting in one of the most historically sensitive areas in Britain. Our responsibility was to find a way of [delivering] a very large volume in this context while making something of its time.

‘It is currently a lost site, a back site that we are trying to open up and make more permeable.’      

Earlier in the meeting, a spokesperson for the investors behind the neighbouring £469 million St James Centre raised questions about why the trucks bringing instruments to the venue couldn’t be brought in through tunnels – a concern echoed by a number of the councillors. 

Developers behind the shopping complex, TH Real Estate (THRE), had already opposed the scheme arguing its height would block views from the new W Hotel, designed by Jestico + Whiles, and claimed Impact had ruled out creating underground access directly into its basement due to costs. 

Chipperfield dismissed this accusation saying all the subterranean options had been looked at and that any suggestions to the contrary were ‘misleading’.

He said that the nearest any tunnel could get to the venue was 40 feet (12m), making it impractical.

Before the meeting the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland had objected to the plans, saying the building would ‘tower over’ Category A-listed 18th-century Dundas House, which will sit to the rear of the concert hall and continue to operate as a branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

However the project had received the support of Edinburgh heritage body the Cockburn Association and was backed by the city’s planners in their report to the committee.

Speaking at the hearing, Chipperfield said: ‘This will be a public building that relates to Edinburgh on a civic scale by both fitting in and standing out in order to perform an important social and cultural role in a city with strong established cultural traditions.’

Design evolution chipperfield scottish chamber

Design evolution chipperfield scottish chamber

Project data

Competition 2017
Completion due 2021
Client Impact Scotland
Architect David Chipperfield Architects
Project director Alasdair Graham
Project architect Johannes Feder
Team Freddie Armitage, Matt Ball, Nick Beissengroll, Micha Gamper, Jochen Glemser, Sofia Gozzi, Christopher Harvey, Rory Hughes, Daniel Itten, Craig Johnston, Antonio Mazzolai, Matthias Odazzi, Charlie Proctor, Simonpietro Salini, Jana Schwalb
Executive architect Reiach and Hall Architects
Landscape architect GROSS.MAX
Structural engineer Whitby Wood
Services engineer Arup
Lighting consultant Arup
Façade consultant Thornton Tomasetti
Acoustic consultant Nagata Acoustics (hall and studio), Arup (venue)
Fire protection Atelier Ten
Quantity surveyor Turner & Townsend
Project management Turner & Townsend
Gross floor area 10,000m²

Plan chipperfield impact

Plan chipperfield impact

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Related files

  • Plan

    PDF, Size 18.23 kb

Readers' comments (3)

  • A dreadful scheme, entirely glass and concrete, it soars over an A listed building by Sir William Chambers in the most sensitive part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Amazing that the local heritage and amenity groups totally capitulated to this. Edinburgh could use another concert hall, but not this one. Something is seriously wrong in this city.

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  • For the perpetrators of Jestico & Whiles' 'golden turd' to complain that the height of the new concert hall would block views from their hotel is pretty rich: their hotel is a classic example of the destructive - and corrupting - impact of tourism.

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  • Chamber's Pot

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