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Hoskins reveals 'fundamental' redesign of Calton Hill scheme


Hoskins Architects has unveiled new images of plans to convert one of Edinburgh’s most sensitive landmarks, the historic Royal High School on Calton Hill, into a 147-room hotel

The firm has ‘fundamentally’ revised its concept scheme in response to concerns from heritage groups about its initial proposals for a 160-room development.

Originally conceived as a ‘referential’ colonnaded addition to the Neo-classical former school, the reworked design now features two ‘organic’ wings splaying away from Thomas Hamilton’s unused 1829 masterpiece.

Practice founder Gareth Hoskins had been accused of destroying Edinburgh’s built heritage like ‘Godzilla’ (see below) when the early consultation drawing were released in February (see AJ 06.02.15).

However he insists the new designs, described as a series of ‘landscaped terraces’ with ‘undulating copper façades inspired by the layered volcanic landscape’, were informed through extensive consultation.

Hoskins said: ‘We’ve listened and taken on board views from a wide range of organisations and individuals through the pre-planning process to develop a fundamentally different design for the site.

‘The design focuses around an informed restoration of the central Hamilton-designed building, repairing its decaying fabric and maintaining the strong sculptural presence of its frontage without intervention. The existing building will be entirely given over to the public areas of the new hotel allowing its spaces to be fully opened to the public for the first time in the building’s history.’

The practice landed the job to transform the A-listed Classical building back in early 2010.

Hoskins added: ‘It is a real landmark to get to this point. It takes effort to go down one line and then pause. One of the things that came up [during consultation] was that when you are working with something so well respected, you have to come up with a confident architectural response.

’Before the scheme was more tentative and referential.’

The £75million project for developers Duddingston House Properties and Urbanist will house a new hotel run by Rosewood Hotels and Resorts.

David Orr, co-founder and chairman of Urbanist Hotels, said: ‘The full restoration of Thomas Hamilton’s masterpiece will create a new accessible destination for the Edinburgh community.’

A planning application was submitted to Edinburgh City Council earlier today.    

Previous story (AJ 14.04.15)

Hoskins brushes off ‘Godzilla’ jibe

Architect Gareth Hoskins has laughed off criticism his impact on Edinburgh’s built heritage is similar to the destructive might of film-monster Godzilla

Hoskins was responding to a submission to UNESCO by conservationist David Black, who is concerned about the future of the Scottish capital’s world heritage status, in which Black attacks the architect’s planned redevelopment of the Grade A-listed old Royal High School on Calton Hill.

The controversial project would see new wings added to Thomas Hamilton’s long-disused, neo-classical building as part of plans to convert the 1829 landmark into a 160-room luxury hotel.

According to The Scotsman, the Black’s 36-page dossier calls for urgent action to deal with ‘a deep-seated crisis’ affecting the city’s historic buildings.

The paper quotes Black as saying: ‘It is as a Godzilla of the urban realm that Hoskins seems to be making his mark in Edinburgh. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to think of a more unfortunate mismatch between an architect and a restoration project.’

However Hoskins dismissed Black’s arguments as unfocused. The Glasgow-based architect, who was on holiday when the criticisms emerged last week, said his children had been amused by the comments, adding: ‘I’m not tall enough to be Godzilla.’

Defending the Calton Hill plans, the architect said that around 1,000 people had already attended consultation events at the building since the proposals were first aired, and that hundreds of responses had been received.

‘I think a lot of people came along because the building isn’t open often – it’s a fantastic place, but everybody is surprised at how small it its,’ he told AJ.

‘Trying to sift through hundreds of responses into a number of different groupings is taking up a lot of time.’

He said: ‘We’ve got a serious job of trying to work designs up on a very important building, and it’s not the case that we’re working on the Royal High School in isolation. It’s one of the most interesting and symbolic sites in the city - there’s a lot of consensus to be had.

‘Should we be the ones to work on a building like this? We were brought in because of our thoughtful work on World Heritage Sites.’

Hoskins said the practice’s proposals were evolving and that the initial ideas had been about establishing a ‘broad strategy’ for the scale and massing of the site. He said a planning application for the hotel complex was expected to be submitted before the end of the year.

Black has previously called for the Scottish capital to be stripped of its UNESCO world heritage status, which he claims has ‘turned out to be the corporate developers’ Trojan Horse’.

The Scotsman quoted a spokesman for old Royal High School developers Urbanist Group and Duddingston House Properties saying: ‘Mr Black is entitled to his colourful opinion. We remain entirely focused on saving the building and creating a world-class attraction.’



Readers' comments (2)

  • Chris Rogers

    Oh. My. God. On the day this year's carbuncle cup is announced, too - nice to see others are getting their entries for 2017 in early.

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  • Third time lucky perhaps ! : an hotel may not actually be the correct solution for this historical landmark. Give the building a function/purpose that would allow it and the site to be restored to its original glory.

    A change of use such as conference centre, museum, art gallery etc.would seem more appropriate. In my opinion letting it sit between these two totally unrelated 'organic cliffs' destroys the setting and downgrades the value of the original property.

    An ideas competition should/may be the way forward, this commercial approach seems to be totally out of context with the problem at hand. I trust this will be rejected by the planning authorities

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