A war of words has broken out over future plans for the acclaimed Scottish Poetry Library (SPL) in Edinburgh Old Town
The library’s original architect, Edinburgh-based Malcolm Fraser who completed his scheme in 1999, had been working with the SPL’s board on a proposed overhaul which included boosting space for books by 80 per cent, a new meeting room and a more ‘welcoming and flexible central space’.
But Fraser parted ways with the client just before Christmas, with Nicoll Russell Studios (NRS) taking over the project. The Dundee-based practice has drawn up an alternative scheme - plans which Fraser described as ‘muddled’ and ‘fine for a corner shop’.
Under the NRS proposal (pictured) the library’s outside area will be replaced by an extension, resulting in the loss of a reading courtyard and a stone staircase that leads to a lectern for outdoor readings (pictured).
Fraser, who has urged people to look at the plans and to send comments to the Edingburgh council, told The Scotsman that the new plans were ‘banal’ and ‘…not nearly good enough for a significant cultural institution in the Edinburgh World Heritage Site, and no justification for the loss of the forestair and courtyard reading area.’
But NRS partner Doug Binnie told the AJ: ‘Malcolm Fraser is entitled to his opinion and I respect him and his building but I do not want to get into mudslinging’.
‘Our design does respect the original architecture,’ said Binnie. ‘There has been a determined effort to harmonise with the existing detailing through materials and finishes. Where there was timber we have used timber and where there are blue glazed bicks we have used blue glazed bricks,’ he said.
‘But after 14 years there are bits that outlived their usefulness. For examnple there is no mobile library service anymore so the garage is not needed.”
And defending plans to ditch the external staircase Binnie said: ‘It just wasn’t used. The Scottish climate does not permit people to sit outside and read poetry and we need the space to increase the footprint to create the new extension.’