Advocate’s Close named Scotland’s ‘best building’

A £30 million Old Town development in Edinburgh has been named the best building in Scotland for 2014.

Advocate’s Close, designed by Morgan McDonnell Architecture, was last night awarded the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award for 2014.

From a shortlist of thirteen projects, all winners of RIAS Awards for 2014 (presented in June 2014), the judges selected Advocate’s Close as a clear winner. The award was presented at a ceremony at the National Museum of Scotland (Doolan Award 2011) by the cabinet secretary for culture and external affairs, Ms Fiona Hyslop MSP with Mrs Margaret Doolan Hon FRIAS (the late Andrew Doolan’s mother).

The judges’ citation for the winning project reads: “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.”

Four projects were given a Special Mention: The Birks Cinema, Aberfeldy by Robin Baker Architects; House No. 7, Isle of Tiree by Denizen Works Ltd; The Inn at John O’Groats, Caithness by GLM and The Bridge, Stepps by Reiach & Hall Architects.

The ceremony was also one of remembrance for the late Professor Andy MacMillan, the leading Scottish architect and judging chair of the awards, who died suddenly during the Awards visits.

RIAS President, Iain Connelly said: “Andy was a great architect, an educator of international renown and one of the finest human beings it has been my privilege to know. His influence on generations of students at the Mackintosh School of Architecture and in the many other institutions where he taught, was immense.

“Andy will be remembered as someone who lived life to the full, who inspired all those he taught and all those who encountered him, as an individual of enormous talent, tremendous enthusiasm and irrepressible fun. Andy’s legacy is the hugely improved built environment of Scotland wrought by his own hand and those of successive generations of his students. He will forever be missed.”

The winner of this year’s RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award receives a gold medal cast by internationally renowned Scottish Goldsmith, James Brent Ward and a cheque for £25,000 making it the richest architectural prize in the UK and one of the most significant awards in Europe. The award is generously supported by the late Andrew Doolan’s family and by the Scottish Government.

Fiona Hyslop said: “I am delighted that the Scottish Government is again supporting the RIAS Andrew Doolan Award for Best Building in Scotland. The shortlist for the Award showcases the talent that exists within the Scottish architectural community.

“The promotion of great architecture helps to raise the profile of good design, to encourage public debate on quality, and to act as a spur for excellence.

“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 of this year’s RIAS Andrew Doolan award.”

Iain Connelly added: “The RIAS Andrew Doolan Award has never been simply an architectural beauty contest. This year’s winner combines careful restoration with bold and uncompromisingly contemporary new additions in an idiom which is sensitive to its setting while avowedly ‘now’. The complexity of what has been delivered and the architectural self-assurance with which it is achieved makes this an extraordinary, truly special and very deserving winner.”


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