Edinburgh concert hall ‘too large and too tall’ say heritage architects

Heritage campaigners have lodged a formal objection to a proposed new concert hall in Edinburgh, claiming it is “too large and too tall” and will ruin views of the historic Royal Bank of Scotland building.

David Chipperfield Architects’ plans will see the city’s first purpose-built music venue in over a century located behind the bank’s historic home on St Andrew Square.

Dundas House was built in 1774 and still operates as an RBS branch.

The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland (AHSS) has called for the proposed £45 million venue to be reduced in scale, arguing that the building would “tower above” its New Town neighbour and “detract from the historic building’s character, greatly diminishing its special interest and status as the focal point of the east end of Edinburgh’s New Town plan”.

The IMPACT Centre will create a major new venue for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Edinburgh International Festival. Central to its design will be a hall offering world-class acoustics, a rooftop dome and a glass-covered walkway giving views down George Street and of the Castle.

It is being promoted by IMPACT Scotland and is intended to attract more than 250,000 visitors a year.

In its submission to the City of Edinburgh Council, the AHSS stated: “As the most important town house in Edinburgh and arguably in all of Scotland, it is imperative that any development is carried out with extreme sensitivity in order to protect the character and special interest of this outstanding listed building.

“While we welcome the proposal to build a new concert venue, we have concerns regarding the excessive scale and massing of the proposed extension, which, far from being subordinate to the listed building, will tower above it.

“This will detract from its character, greatly diminishing its special interest and status as the focal point of the east end of Edinburgh’s New Town.

“The proposal is too large and too tall for such a restricted plot, surrounded as it is by listed buildings, and as such represents an overdevelopment of the site. We’re also concerned about the way the proposed concert hall butts up against Dundas House.”

However, the project has won support from another leading heritage body the Cockburn Association which said in its own submission: “We welcome the considerable effort the developers have undertaken to positively consult with a wide variety of stakeholders throughout the development of the final design for this project.

“We acknowledge and welcome changes made throughout the design process because of the meaningful consultation and engagement exercises. Within the constraints of the available site, the proposed concert hall is an effective and positive use of space.”

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