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University of Edinburgh submit McEwan Hall plans

July 25 2013

University of Edinburgh submit McEwan Hall plans
The University of Edinburgh has submitted a £3.4m plan to revamp the McEwan Hall by opening up a cavernous basement beneath the venue and introducing a new entrance from Bristo Square.

Designed by LDN and Buro Happold this scheme is designed to restore the A listed Robert Rowan Anderson building to its former glory whilst enhancing accessibility and increasing capacity.

This is achieved through a contemporary glazed pavilion which would act as the main access point to the renowned hall.

In a statement the University said: “The University of Edinburgh's vision is to reinvent the McEwan Hall, opening the ceremonial building for future audiences and activities while restoring it to its 19th century brilliance. The Hall was built between 1888 and 1897 thanks to a private donation of £115,000 by the founder of the Edinburgh brewing firm, and MP for Central Edinburgh, Sir William McEwan. It was Sir William McEwan’s wish for the magnificent ceremonial hall to be made available to the people of the City.

“Our goal is to restore the McEwan Hall building to its former glory while taking the opportunity to open this splendid ceremonial hall for the wider public to enjoy through increased cultural, educational, artistic and community activities. It will create new spaces for conferences, exhibitions, events, education, and catering, meeting the demands of high quality building restoration while fulfilling the original vision of its benefactor.”
Bristo Square, though popular with skaters, isn't as attractive a place to linger as it could be
Bristo Square, though popular with skaters, isn't as attractive a place to linger as it could be
LDN are keen to avoid any pastiche in their design approach
LDN are keen to avoid any pastiche in their design approach

Work to restore the existing Hall is already well underway
Work to restore the existing Hall is already well underway


ah.. Bisto
#1 Posted by ah.. Bisto on 25 Jul 2013 at 13:36 PM
Bistro Square, or Bristo Square UK????
#2 Posted by B on 25 Jul 2013 at 13:46 PM
Looks fantastic, well done guys!
#3 Posted by Wunderkind on 25 Jul 2013 at 20:15 PM
Eric Parry/St Martin in the Fields eat your heart out!
#4 Posted by Sven on 29 Jul 2013 at 17:25 PM
The massive gap is public use. There is no seating, shelter or interest. The square (if it can be called square) will stay as it is, a wind swept void without seating, screening or interest (water features anyone?). St Andrews square incorporates seating and shelter and is well used.
#5 Posted by dalrylama on 30 Jul 2013 at 13:57 PM
The current square is very well used - just by people that the city don't want to use it.

BMX & skaters etc. use the space in large numbers, I think it's a pity if they're being chased away. Residents of the city that actually want to inhabit and utilise public spaces being driven away.
#6 Posted by Sven on 1 Aug 2013 at 14:18 PM

BMX and skaters damage stonework with their 'hobby' and contribute nothing to upkeep, therefore, they are not exactly wanted. There is a need for places to sit around that part of town (granted the meadows are close but...)
Cat Flap
#7 Posted by Cat Flap on 1 Aug 2013 at 17:44 PM
@Sven - I know in your world it would be idyllic if your average Edinburgh student donned their skinny jeans, quaffered their foppish hair, drank their skinny latte and sat around the square talking about how super Eton was back in the day, but in the real world, skateboarding's a slightly healthier & more pleasant to watch "hobby" than mugging grannies, dealing drugs and morbid obesity.

There's no reason, without a little thought, subtle damage-proof edgings can't be incorporated to handrails & stonework without ruining the pretty stonework.
I think watching and encouraging kids to skateboard is a much more dynamic and exciting environment.
Big P
#8 Posted by Big P on 2 Aug 2013 at 14:35 PM
@cat flap - Yes 100%! The way skaters/bmxers etc use a space is something to be admired and should be encouraged. I wouldn't be studying to be an architect if i did not skate growing up and view spaces and objects in a different light to others. To ban people from using spaces in a positive and innovative way is just madness.
#9 Posted by alibi on 3 Aug 2013 at 16:56 PM
not a skateboarded myself but it is clearly a positive use of public space. a good, free and healthy activity for young people often on the margins of society, and always something interesting to watch as a user of the square myself.

most importantly these young people circulating in the area create a firm presence and help drive away crime and anti social activity.

recently the free running crowd have started using the square too. all good.

all for moving things forward but any efforts to chase away those who have most enjoyed the square for many years would be wrong.
#10 Posted by Sven on 3 Aug 2013 at 23:53 PM
"skateboarding's a slightly healthier & more pleasant to watch "hobby" than mugging grannies, dealing drugs and morbid obesity. "

Concordantly; but if you think skaters are only out on their boards to stop them dealing drubs and mugging grannies, perhaps at the same time, then you need to step out of the ghetto. The 'square' has no public seating or focal points. I personally have little issue with the skaters, but if the area has £3.4 million spent on it, having a bunch of young males in need of a haircut scraping their skate boards over the newly installed stonework and breaking it, then it is time they are moved on like the drunks on Hunter Square.
#11 Posted by wimbles on 18 Sep 2013 at 13:05 PM
Sven, There is plenty of seating. The entire circumference of the square aside from the stairs that lead into it are comprised of blocks that many passers by sit on converse and witness the many activities performed within it. Forward thinking cities like Copenhagen realize the importance of inter-city skateboarding and the active and creative culture it facilitates; often incorporating skateable design elements into new architectural developments.

When conducting interviews for a film about the 30 odd year history of skateboarding in the square, we spoke to Sam Patterson who reminisced upon a story of his mother meeting the architect who shared his joy at the many uses of his design. It has been skated for over 30 years and the ledges, a little scraped, rounded and chipped have never needed replaced and have retained their functional value.

The statue, the architecture of the surrounding area, the blossom tree lined perimeter and the free open space in the center are all perfectly admiral focal points.

Push the drunks out the square and there will be drunks on the street.
#12 Posted by Reason on 18 Sep 2013 at 13:49 PM
@Sven i don't think you could put your point across in more of an uninformed way.
Look at cities like Copenhagen and it doesn't take long to realize that the UK is miles behind in innovative ways to create public spaces for EVERYONE.
Generalizing skateboarders to Young, Male and in need of a haircut only highlights how desperate you are to dismiss skateboarding and its use of the square.
#13 Posted by primitive on 18 Sep 2013 at 14:26 PM
"The 'square' has no public seating"
......there are literally 3 rows of seating around the entire square.
#14 Posted by pete on 19 Sep 2013 at 10:36 AM
@ Sven - why on earth are you comparing teenagers with a healthy hobby to alcoholics on the streets? bit foolish really and completely undermines everything you just said. move on Sven.

plus the fact, who cares, it's mainly students around that area and they clearly don't mind their peers skateboarding...
and as for the damage it is causing the stonework, I'm sure there are much more pressing issues than chipped STONE for the council and so on to be dealing with, it's really not at the top of anybodies worry list surely? if it is then that says more about you dude...
#15 Posted by traceur on 4 Apr 2014 at 18:30 PM
Not a skateboarder but use Bristo Square for practicing Parkour. Bristo has many unique and hard to find challenges within and around its surroundign areas. There is no other place in Edinburgh with such features. To remove Bristo and thus getting rid of such a massive and resourceful area would be devastating to all such activities. Skateboarders use it as a place to meet and hang out with friends and other skaters whilst practicing. Traceurs (practitioners of parkour) come from all over Britain to use Bristo for its massive gaps, and challenging features. Speaking as a traceur, to take this away from everybody would be horrible, many of us rely on Bristo as a familiar place to train. Also to the general public, many have commented on how good it is to see younger generations doing outdoor activities and are impressed by both traceurs and skaters' skills. There is plenty of seating around Bristo and many students love to sit and watch on the stones as they wait for lectures, pass time, or just sit in the sun. Im very unhappy to hear about this change to such a magnificent piece of architectural structure
Wayne B
#16 Posted by Wayne B on 21 May 2017 at 06:06 AM
This was once a vibrant community of homes, shops and streets before it was all swept away and turned into a no man's land with McEwan Hall being the sole notable remnant. Ditto part of adjacent George Square, again, swept away by the University and replaced with horrid modern buildings. Obscene.

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