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Fraser warns of Scottish Poetry Library ‘despoilment’

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February 13 2014

Fraser warns of Scottish Poetry Library ‘despoilment’
Malcolm Fraser, architect of the Scottish Poetry Library, has called on Creative Scotland to think carefully before agreeing to fund its ‘despoilment’ - following submission of a planning application which calls for a radical expansion of the collection.

The fall out follows a dispute between the architect and the library's board over how best to accommodate the institutions needs going forward, which led to the architect parting ways with the library – to be replaced by Nicoll Russell Studios when the brief was put out to tender.

Fraser said: “I drew a proposal for the library’s board that radically re-organised the interior of the building, gaining a much more welcoming and flexible central space, a large new meeting room and gallery (which would further animate the sloping close) and space for a whopping 80 per cent more books. This met and greatly exceeded what their brief asked for; so imagine my bewilderment when the board’s chair dismissed me, and went out and interviewed for new architects.”

Giving his version of the spat in a design statement Robyn Marsack, director of the Scottish Poetry Library, said: “Design proposals were agreed with the original architect, on the basis of which a grant was received from Creative Scotland. After a discussion with CEC, interior reconfigurations as well as other options were explored over a long period of time; the final plan submitted by MFA did not meet the SPL’s brief, in the view of the board, and MF resigned.”

NRS’s contentious plan calls for the creation of a new extension and forestair which Fraser described as betraying ‘muddled thinking’ which ‘destroys’ the front of the library and will result in the loss of a courtyard reading area and associated artwork.

“The perspective misrepresents the steepness of the site, flattening it out so that the awkwardness of how the proposed extension would meet the steep slope is blunted,” Fraser lamented. “But it still shows the banality of the proposal – fine for a corner shop but not nearly good enough for a significant cultural institution in the Edinburgh World Heritage Site, and no justification for the loss of the forestair and courtyard reading area.”

As a result Fraser is calling for Creative Scotland to think twice before offering financial support, saying. “The library building is arguably Creative Scotland’s most effective single investment in the art of architecture – are they going to now fund its despoilment?”

The Scottish Poetry Library insists that its plan respects the original building.
The external staircase can be used as an impromptu gathering space
The external staircase can be used as an impromptu gathering space
The library as it exists currently. It was the world's first purpose-built national poetry library upon completion 15 years ago
The library as it exists currently. It was the world's first purpose-built national poetry library upon completion 15 years ago

The library contends that it has outgrown the brief of its original build
The library contends that it has outgrown the brief of its original build

14 Comments

neilius
#1 Posted by neilius on 13 Feb 2014 at 10:50 AM
"This application is no longer available for viewing. It may have been removed or restricted from public viewing." - running scared from public opinion perchance?

This proposal, although in itself not bad, ruins one of Edinburgh's recent architectural gems. I don't know the truth of the politics behind it but the result certainly isn't good.
neilius
#2 Posted by neilius on 13 Feb 2014 at 11:00 AM
OK, it must have been a glitch - the application is now visible.
rafa
#3 Posted by rafa on 13 Feb 2014 at 13:36 PM
What is this, Mourinho vs Wenger, what's with the jibes and comments?
designer
#4 Posted by designer on 13 Feb 2014 at 14:03 PM
I wonder if this is payback by nrs for malcolm fraser proposing to put a building in front of dundee rep. Would love to be a fly on the wall in the next A+DS meeting.
ella h
#5 Posted by ella h on 13 Feb 2014 at 21:02 PM
Malcolm Fraser falling out with people? Bad mouthing them through the media? Never...??
Malcolm Fraser
#6 Posted by Malcolm Fraser on 14 Feb 2014 at 12:48 PM
Yes, I once made a proposal for the Rep - it was a mistake... though it was never going to happen and never did, and I regretted making it.
This is different, and may well happen unless people take the trouble to go on the Edinburgh Planning portal and make considered objection to the loss of features integral to the building. Please.
"Resigning"? I said that extending out the front would ruin the building, and that the radical reorganisation proposal delivered the brief better, so was dismissed.
And as for criticising Nicoll Russell Studios - yes, I think they should be ashamed of what they are doing.
CADMonkey
#7 Posted by CADMonkey on 14 Feb 2014 at 13:59 PM
Initially I thought your suggestion that Nicoll Russell Studio should be ashamed of themselves was a tad harsh. However the more I look at this the more I see what you mean. These "poets" clearly don't recognise a work of art when they are inside one.
Ella h
#8 Posted by Ella h on 14 Feb 2014 at 14:26 PM
Malcolm, did your mother not tell you that people don't like bad losers? Have some self respect and take this like a man. You are damaging your reputation.
Malcolm Fraser
#9 Posted by Malcolm Fraser on 14 Feb 2014 at 14:44 PM
Ella, she told me to fight for what's right.
CADMonkey
#10 Posted by CADMonkey on 14 Feb 2014 at 15:38 PM
Ella, Malcolm is right. This equates to woodchip wallpapering over a Renoir.
Who owns this building, is it a public body?
King Brood
#11 Posted by King Brood on 14 Feb 2014 at 15:42 PM
For me the Nicoll Russell proposal completely spoils the original facade. The structural rhythm and scale of the original will be completely lost.
Alan Dunlop
#12 Posted by Alan Dunlop on 14 Feb 2014 at 16:00 PM
Far from damaging his reputation and to his credit Malcolm Fraser has consistantly been willing to be outspoken and critical of elements of the profession that need changing and, moreover, willing to be quoted. That's healthy for the profession in Scotland. In my view, that is also very much to his credit.

I have not always argreed with him and that is also healthy because it furthers debate. However in this case I agree, the proposed additions to the library look, at best mundane and he is right to fight against it, as any of us should be were significant alterations to be made to any of our buildings and am happy to offer him my support
John
#13 Posted by John on 15 Feb 2014 at 16:48 PM
Happen to be a huge fan of this building as well as much of NRS' work. I do think that this proposal is damaging to the original building and could be better but equally agree that MF should stay out of the public debate as it can only bring negative association. The opportunity for a Malcolm Fraser designed adaptation to the building has come and gone - for whatever reason. An argument with the building owners/users in the media is in bad taste from any perspective.
Iain Cameron
#14 Posted by Iain Cameron on 5 Mar 2014 at 22:54 PM
This is a terrible proposal and anyone who knows this building should oppose a very poor NRS design.

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