Edinburgh College of Art

Client: The University of Edinburgh


LDN Architects have almost completed a multi-phased refurbishment of Edinburgh Collage of Art and ECA accommodation in Chambers Street. Building on a campus masterplan prepared by LDN in 2012, we are in the final phase (completion end of 2018) of a series of projects to decant ECA departments into medium term accommodation in Chambers Street and Lauriston Place and allow vacated parts to be refurbished and re-serviced. In the central, red sandstone Edwardian building at Lauriston Place, the challenge involved the removal of decades of piecemeal change to reveal the simplicity of the original plan without losing the patina of use that had accrued over those same decades. For example, in the north-light studios, walls, ceilings and services were all refurbished but the floors were left untouched to keep intact the layers of paint that evidence successive generations of students passing through.

A key project objective was to remove widespread asbestos and introduce previously non existent insulation. The huge mansard roofs were re-slated and re-leaded and a very large array of photo-voltaic panels installed in the hidden, south facing roof valley. Whilst making a significant contribution to the running coasts of the building and reducing its carbon footprint, this unseen array has no external visual impact on the Listed building.

The Edwardian building has a central space in both wings around which the large studios are grouped. The eastern space is a grand, formal, arcaded space known as the Sculpture Court which has served generations of students as a gallery, café, party place and fashion show venue. The western equivalent was originally a light-well and holding area for large animals brought in for life drawing. In recent decades this space, which became known as the ‘Hole in the Ground’, was unused and had, most recently, been the intended location for a grandiose (and un-realised) performance venue. Our brief was to bring the space back into use as a flexible multi-purpose gallery, largely as found, as economically as possible. To achieve this, the budget was deployed in the floor and ceiling to provide building services and acoustic absorption that would facilitate its use as gallery, seminar room, studio and performance venue. The stone walls are left as found and the floor is finished in fair-faced concrete to provide a visually and physically robust space that is a deliberate contrast to the refined Sculpture Court.

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