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Chipperfield’s Edinburgh concert hall plans halted after legal challenge

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Plans for a £45 million David Chipperfield-designed concert hall in Edinburgh have been put on hold by its backers as a legal challenge from a neighbouring site rumbles on

The new home for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, which received planning permission in April, was set to be Edinburgh’s first purpose-built concert hall to be built in 100 years when it opened in 2023.

The proposal features a 1,000-seat auditorium, 200-seat studio, large foyer for informal performances and a café.

But International Music and Performing Arts Charitable Trust (Impact) Scotland, which is backing the plans, has confirmed the scheme faces an ’indeterminate delay’ while legal proceedings remain live.

In August Nuveen Real Estate (formerly TH Real Estate) petitioned the Court of Session for a judicial review of the planning permission granted by Edinburgh Council, objecting in particular to the concert hall’s height, scale and mass. 

Nuveen, which is behind the nearby Edinburgh St James development, argues that the concert hall will damage the Edinburgh skyline and World Heritage Site.

It is understood the legal issues could take years to iron out  and that in the meantime Impact Scotland is considering its options including, according to local reports, looking to see if the concert hall could be built elsewhere.

A spokesperson for Impact said: ’We are facing a difficult, indeterminate delay to the project following the neighbouring St James’ Shopping and Hotel Centre developers petitioning the Courts for a judicial review of the council’s planning processes. This has led us to temporarily pause work on the project.

‘It makes sense during this period that we consider all options available to us as our overriding goal is to find a way forward to begin construction of the Dunard Centre and create Edinburgh’s first purpose-built performance venue in over 100 years.’

The concert hall, as proposed, would sit behind Dundas House, the 1774 home of landowner and politician Lawrence Dundas – an architectural jewel in central Edinburgh. Last year the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland objected to the plans, arguing that the building would ‘tower over’ Dundas House. 

Despite the objections, in April this year the City Council’s planning committee narrowly approved the proposal.

During the meeting, David Chipperfield was forced to defend the proposed used of concrete, the 10,000m² scheme’s impact on its surroundings and why the service bay for lorries was not positioned underground.

‘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,’ Chipperfield said.

He added: ‘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.’

David Chipperfield Architects was contacted for comment.

David chipperfield architects impact edinburgh approved april 2019 dca (1)

David Chipperfield Architects’ proposed new home for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in Edinburgh - designs as approved April 2019

Source: DCA

David Chipperfield Architects’ proposed new home for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in Edinburgh - designs as approved April 2019

Project data

Competition 2017
Original completion due date  2021
Client Impact Scotland
Architect David Chipperfield Architects
Project director Alasdair Graham
Project architect Johannes Feder
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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Readers' comments (1)

  • Perhaps it could be sunk further into the ground without causing insurmountable circulation difficulties.
    And the old North British Railway's long-abandoned Scotland Street tunnel runs under that side of St Andrew Square - it might even provide a cost-effective contribution to solving the servicing problems.

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