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Scottish Provident demolition labelled a ‘tragedy’

July 4 2014

 Scottish Provident demolition labelled a ‘tragedy’
The Scottish Provident building, a B-listed modernist landmark in Edinburgh, has been flattened to make way for a speculative £75m office, retail and residential development.

Malcolm Fraser, who took this picture, described the demolition as a ‘tragedy’ for the city, addong: "One of Edinburgh’s finest modern buildings destroyed – though the Gareth Hoskins/CDA proposals will glue a bit of the façade back on."

Edinburgh councilors gave the nod to the demolition following assurances that elements of  the dismantled façade would be re-used in the new scheme, after ruling that dismantling and reconstructing the façade did not constitute demolition.

Designed by Rowand Anderson Kinimouth & Paul the New Town landmark is being redeveloped by Standard Life and is expected to be complete by the end of 2016.
The Scottish Provident building in happier times
The Scottish Provident building in happier times


Euan Leitch
#1 Posted by Euan Leitch on 4 Jul 2014 at 16:47 PM
Bets that they won't actually even reconstruct the facade?
#2 Posted by Charlie_ on 4 Jul 2014 at 21:59 PM
I wonder how many people who didn't go to architecture school consider this a 'tragedy'.
Big Chantelle
#3 Posted by Big Chantelle on 7 Jul 2014 at 09:14 AM
I'm glad to see this concrete modernist mess go but sadly the replacement will be pure ugliness.

You're in a world heritage site. It's all beautiful classical architecture. There's a need for a new development. Yep, let's build something which doesn't fit in just so the concrete lefties can feel special and think it represents progress and modernity.

Build a classical building. Beauty matters.

Tourists coming won't stop and say "Gee Fabrizio, that wonky concrete building sitting amongst all these classical buildings is just so edgy. Wasn't it so brave to build it."

Naw. What they'll say is : "Gee Fabrizio, what is that ugly lump there. It spoils the view to the Scott monument. Yuk. What daftie let that get built".
#4 Posted by Architrave on 7 Jul 2014 at 10:46 AM
Big Chantelle.
Yes lets build classical buildings...because they're old they're automatically good.

While we're at it why don't we all speak Latin to one another, sublime speech matters.

bear post please
#5 Posted by bear post please on 7 Jul 2014 at 12:32 PM
I bet Fabrizio is gonna ditch that pal as he sounds a wrong'un.
#6 Posted by conkers on 7 Jul 2014 at 12:59 PM
charlie, i wonder how many people that DID do to architecture school consider this a 'tragedy'..
Big Chantelle
#7 Posted by Big Chantelle on 7 Jul 2014 at 13:35 PM


O, erm, why?

Why ignore the immediate context Architrave? During an opera if Big Pavorotti suddenly started beatboxing, do you think everyone would go "well, isn't that just so joyous. The modern, urban infused sounds of beatboxing interjecting into some classical Verdi".

Naw. They'd go " Boooooooooooooooo".

And also, let's ignore the fact the building wasn't even fit for purpose. So, it's ugly, out of context and not even fit for modern day office needs.

But aye, let's all cry now that it's coming down because some 'intellectuals' of the concrete lovin' fraternity have determined it is good and us lowly peepz know nothing about architecture....except when we see a turd of a building scarring the landscape.
#8 Posted by Robert on 7 Jul 2014 at 13:59 PM
Fabrizio has plenty other friends.
#9 Posted by conkers on 7 Jul 2014 at 14:11 PM
this Fabrizio, is he the guy that invented Fabreeze?
#10 Posted by Architrave on 7 Jul 2014 at 15:03 PM
Big Chantelle,
I'm not arguing about the virtues about the building in question - but I find your assertion that we should build classical buildings forever more just frankly, ludicrous. Classical buildings shows us how proportion, light, form and order can contribute to the power of architecture - but to casually create facsimiles undermines those qualities.

However there is no point going any further, as I am convinced you're here to take the proverbial.
#11 Posted by Huzzah on 7 Jul 2014 at 16:09 PM
The facade is/was granite. Modernist? Yes. Ugly? A matter of opinion. But definitely not concrete!
bear post please
#12 Posted by bear post please on 7 Jul 2014 at 16:19 PM
Big Chantelle.

People develop new ideas for all realms which change people and how society interacts with its surroundings. Architectures job is to reflect this cycle.

Let me tell you it aint as simple as "beauty matters". you should not have such restricted views on architecture as it can hinder your understanding on modern society and culture, which is what makes these cities a very much diverse and enjoyable place to explore
#13 Posted by Jane on 8 Jul 2014 at 09:56 AM
The building was an eyesore and unsuited to modern day office use. When will architects realise that tower blocks, concrete, glass or granite, whether they be sited at Fountainbridge, Quartermile or in St Andrews Square are simply out of keeping with the traditional building they sit in amongst and are what make Edinburgh special.
#14 Posted by Egbert on 8 Jul 2014 at 10:30 AM
Jane - this wasn't a tower block (it was actually shorter than the adjoining A-listed Forsyth's warehouse at No.3, which is being retained). The shame here is that it was actually a pretty enlightened example of contextual modernism, showing respect to the height and proportions of the surrounding blocks (and materiality, its granite matching that of the Basil Spence block across the way). It's also difficult to see how a 'traditional building' would be any better suited to modern-day office use so I don't find your argument particularly coherent. Aesthetically it may have divided opinion but it was part of a rich and heterogeneous streetscape - a complementary mix of buildings of all ages, which I'd argue is what makes Edinburgh special, and what is being lost here.
#15 Posted by Egbert on 8 Jul 2014 at 10:33 AM
Big Chantelle - I know you love to bang your anti-modern (and rather revealingly, apparently anti-Lefty) drum, but the day Edinburgh starts designing itself to suit the whims of some imaginary tourist is the day it dies as a real city.
#16 Posted by Egbert on 8 Jul 2014 at 10:36 AM
Also - the Scott Monument isn't remotely Classical. Nor the National Portrait Gallery. Yet they sit quite happily within the New Town and World Heritage Site. Would you call for their demolition too?
Big Chantelle
#17 Posted by Big Chantelle on 9 Jul 2014 at 09:29 AM

Not once did I mention we should be building them "forever". You've made that up.Reading is fundamental.

Just merely that we should build appropriate buildings for their location.

The character of that area -- a world heritage site -- should be respected. The grey mess of a building didn't respect it. It was visually out of keep with the square's character and actually didn't even function for its intended use as an office.

Having some blocky, boxy modernist building achieves what? Oh, it's seen as progressive for university types who studied architecture and think putting in something completely different to the established character of the site equals 'artistic bravery'.

Naw. A building whose frontage respects the architecture character of the site but yet internally allows for modern function CAN be designed.
Big Chantelle
#18 Posted by Big Chantelle on 9 Jul 2014 at 09:39 AM

The national portrait gallery and Scott monument are both shrines to brilliant stone architecture. Intricate in detail and stunningly beautiful. Classical, baroque and Victorian gothic all share architecture ambition. Different but brilliant. And complementary.

A grey modern box isn't of the same architecture pedigree. Altho, I hear the ppl of the Motherwell polytechnic architecture department love its grey leftie chic. They also want to dulux-coat the Sistine chapel ceiling. And are fighting to save the St James's centre because its grey concrete fortress like prison aesthetic is just so, ya know, edgy and liberal and not like that boring neo-classic stuff holding Edinburgh back.........

Edinburgh does have to take tourists (and residents') feelings into consideration. That's part of being a "real" city.

Betcha most ppl would vote for a classical building in that location as opposed to a wonky glass abomination if they were given a voice.

I wouldn't demolish the two buildings you list. I would demolish all the modern tat on Princes street though. Since I know that was going to be your next question.

#19 Posted by re-bar on 11 Jul 2014 at 10:49 AM
Well which ever way one views the design of the now lost Scottish Provident building , sadly it remains of a higher quality than the standard of debate here. What is it about comments posting that brings out the bile in people?
#20 Posted by Egbert on 11 Jul 2014 at 12:56 PM
That's a nice straw man you've got there Big Chantelle.
#19, you're not wrong about the standard of debate from certain commenters...
#21 Posted by Dadabouttown on 11 Jul 2014 at 15:57 PM
Good points #19 & 20. Debates pushed into extremes. There is of course a place for good architecture of any era and style. For my part, I think a not particularly great piece of modern architecture (yes I know other older buildings are going) that few if any non architects will miss is being replaced by an equally not great piece of even more modern architecture based on visuals seen so far. Far far too monolithic in feel - so it feels like a giant space ship has landed in the site. Sitting on the canal as part of the fountainbridge development or in Edinburgh Park, those vertical bronze fins and less sense of 'floors' might well look great. Filling almost one entire side of St Andrews square, it just feels like the architects are pushing this particular design idea in the wrong place.
boaby wan
#22 Posted by boaby wan on 12 Jul 2014 at 10:59 AM
aside from the debate on style, this was one of the few interesting modern interventions in edinburgh (in my opinion) - I guess that corner of the square is going to be an easy target for anyone trying to illustrate the argument of styles!!
The problem with picking a historic style to copy is that modern building methods/requirements wouldn't allow the same buildings to be built again, so the style becomes diluted and then you end up with a seriously compromised building.
And who gets to decide which style to copy, from my experience of edinburgh there are many styles from many era's - just because they are all old doesn't make them the same
#23 Posted by Cadmonkeys on 15 Jul 2014 at 18:15 PM
The debate here has lost the plot. The issue is that the original architecture is being retained. Buildings always get reroofed, re glazed, reclad. Architecture is the informed ideas and concepts behind how the materials are arranged. So as far as the beautiful, clever facade is concerned...what is being lost?

I agree that most comments here are inflammatory baws by the way. Clearly not made by architects.

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