Demolition Threat: Caltongate Project
A major redevelopment project in Edinburgh´s Old Town started after a decade-long delay
DATE: 25/6/2015
"Ten year´s ago, Edinburgh´s famous Bongo Club had to move out of its premises on New Street, to make way for a major redevelopment in the Old Town of Edinburgh, a World Heritage Site. The area between Canongate, part of Edinburgh´s Royal Mile, and Calton Road, mostly a former industrial site, was to be converted into commercial premises and a hotel. The redevelopment proposal was heavily criticised at the time for ignoring the needs of the local community, as the Canongate area remains predominantly residential, despite its location in the city centre. Then, the financial crisis happened and everything ground to a halt.

Now, led by a new developer, the project has been reinvigorated, with a slightly amended, but still mainly commercial proposal. Artisan Real Estate Investors will spend £150m on the redevelopment, with the first phase of the works including demolition of council houses and the construction of a new hotel and a public square. The demolitions were particularly criticised. In the original scheme, two tenements of orignial construction, dating from the interwar regeneration of the Old Town, following Patrick Geddes´ ´conservation surgery´ principle, were to be aquired from the city council, the tenants evicted and their homes demolished. As this would have changed the appearance of the Canongate substantially, the new scheme retain the facades. The corner building, the Old Sailors´ Ark, is to be retained and retrofitted internally.

It is just ‘everywhere or nowhere architecture’", says James Simpson, vice-president for Scotland of the UK arm of ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, in the Financial Times.

Site work has begun recently, with the windows of the Canongate elevations now removed. Following the recent demolition of the postwar Modernist Scottish Provident Building, in Edinburgh´s New Town, we witness another example of the city council´s commercially driven ambition with no interest in either conservation or the local community."

[by docomomo UK]