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Morgan McDonnell's 'intricately woven' Edinburgh scheme wins 2014 Doolan Prize

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A complex £30million development in Edinburgh, featuring a series of ‘gutsy contemporary’ additions to nine revamped listed buildings has won the 2014 RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award

The Advocate’s Close scheme by Morgan McDonnell Architecture saw off 12 other schemes, including Denizen Works’ Stephen Lawrence Prize-winning House No. 7 on the Isle of Tiree, to scoop the prestigious annual award.

With the RIBA’s Stirling Prize not offering a cheque to its victors again until next year, the Doolan Award remains the only major UK architectural accolade still offering a substantial cash prize – a £25,000 jackpot.

Morgan McDonnell’s development in the Scottish capital’s Old Town houses a new 208 room hotel – the UK’s first Motel One -  50 serviced apartments together with restaurants, offices, bars and a new pedestrian thoroughfare linking Advocate’s Close with the News Steps.

The jury, which included RIAS President Iain Connelly and Dermot Morrin, winner of the RIAS/Scottish Government Client of the Year Award in 2013, was chaired by the late Professor Andy MacMillan who died while judging the award in August (AJ 18.08.14).

RIAS secretary Neil Baxter believes MacMillan would have agreed with the choice of winner. He said: ‘From Andy’s comments it was clear that he really liked Advocate’s Close and it was a front runner as far as he was concerned.

It is a virtuoso performance

‘It is, after all, a virtuoso performance, respectful of history and context but with gutsy contemporary interventions. Exactly the sort of challenging work to get Andy excited.’

Other shortlisted schemes to have missed out were Elder & Cannon Architects’ Clydebank East Workshops in Glasgow, RMJM’s Commonwealth Games Athletes’ Village in Glasgow and Gareth Hoskins Architects’ Grassmarket Community Project, Edinburgh.

The award was presented at a ceremony at the National Museum of Scotland on Wednesday night (5 November) by the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop along with Margaret Doolan, the late Andrew Doolan’s mother.

Hyslop said: ‘Advocate’s Close exemplifies the highest standards of place-making providing a vibrant new quarter in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town and is a worthy winner.’

The judges’ citation

Intricately woven into the fabric of the upper Old Town, this development encompasses nine listed buildings. Combining commercial units, a restaurant, offices and a bar/bistro with serviced apartments, the development brings new vibrancy to this precious but previously neglected area of the World Heritage Site.

Externally, closed off pends and passageways have been reopened to enhance the pedestrian connections through the site. However contemporary additions, in both their materials and form, are aesthetically “stood off” from the historic original fabric and easily differentiated both close to and in more distant views. Internal treatments are respectful. Inappropriate sub-divisions, accreted over the decades have been removed and upper storeys reinstated.

The intricacy of the site acquisition process and the complexity of the three dimensional diagram that bridges two closes between the High Street, Cockburn Street and Market Street, with a fall of almost nine storeys from top to bottom, is remarkable. However it is the care and deliberation with which contemporary and historic have been brought together that is most deserving of praise.

The architects and their enlightened client sought to rehabilitate a collection of historic buildings, characteristic of a unique setting. They have brought new life into an area which had previously been passed by.


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Readers' comments (1)

  • "Intricately woven....a virtuoso performance, highest standards of place-making " really?

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