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Scottish Provident façade stripped from revised St Andrew Square plan

October 28 2014

Scottish Provident façade stripped from revised St Andrew Square plan
CDA and Gareth Hoskins Architects have expunged the last vestiges of the former Scottish Provident building at Edinburgh’s St Andrew Square after specifying contentious revisions to its façade.

Standard Life Assurance Ltd is seeking to amend an existing consent following Historic Scotland’s decision to ‘de-list’ the former Scottish Provident building, which has now been demolished, after previously promising to re-use portions of the concrete facing.

It is now proposed to build an entirely new façade consisting of a full-height limestone ‘collonade’.

In their design statement for the new scheme the architects write: “The elevation employs a similar vertical emphasis to the adjacent buildings reflecting the verticality of the original narrow feu. Rather than continue the metallic ‘bronze’ of the adjacent facades, the new building is deliberately differentiated through a lighter coloured limestone. The intent is to form these vertical elements to appear as solid pieces of stone to maintain the sense of solidity and avoid the thinness presented by many modern ‘stone clad’ buildings.”

The new element will serve as a main entrance to the consented office block and includes a solid feature intended to echo the vertical stair tower and dumb waiter of the previous Kinimouth & Paul building.
Critics had suggested that the plan was to do away with the Scottish Provident building all along
Critics had suggested that the plan was to do away with the Scottish Provident building all along
Work to deliver the previously consented scheme is already underway
Work to deliver the previously consented scheme is already underway


Lateral damage
#1 Posted by Lateral damage on 28 Oct 2014 at 11:14 AM
Nothing dodgy about this...
#2 Posted by 'nade on 28 Oct 2014 at 12:00 PM
Good! a bit of common sense. it looks infinately better. yeah it's all great being sentimental about previous buildings and their appearence we've got used to, but in some cases, there just comes a point when they are neither workable nor worth keeping.
#3 Posted by trade on 28 Oct 2014 at 12:25 PM
Can we swapsies, the scheme above instead of this one here?
Gooooo ooooonnn!
#4 Posted by CADMonkey on 28 Oct 2014 at 12:35 PM
This news makes me embarrassed to be an architect.
Neil C
#5 Posted by Neil C on 28 Oct 2014 at 12:59 PM
I'm afraid this again confirms that our most high profile architects, Richard Murphy, Page and Park and Hoskins just cannot design commerical buildings.
#6 Posted by Rabbie on 28 Oct 2014 at 13:10 PM
This scheme definitely looks better without the clumsy inclusion of the Scottish Provident building. That's not to say I think it looks great though...
#7 Posted by james on 28 Oct 2014 at 13:20 PM
Is it just me, or is there a serious issue of scale here and repetition? Hey buddy! can you spare us a different leitmotif? I'd advise them to look at the transformative drawings and paintings of Ben Nicolson, but then again architects already know everything don't they? Unlike Scottish voters, they're genetically programmed that way.
Big Chantelle
#8 Posted by Big Chantelle on 28 Oct 2014 at 13:38 PM
I love this.
#9 Posted by Cadmonkey on 28 Oct 2014 at 13:43 PM
So why would the City of Edinburgh Council Planning Department approve of this change.
It does look overly repetitive.
I can't help thinking it would be more appropriate as a babboon enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo.
It's a disgrace the original has gone to be replaced with this. On such an important site too.
#10 Posted by Dave on 28 Oct 2014 at 14:12 PM
I agree, there is something very uncomfortable about the relative scale of this proposal. Especially seen from Princes Street, that glass corner and the tall windows have unusual proportions.
Not Big Chantelle
#11 Posted by Not Big Chantelle on 28 Oct 2014 at 14:23 PM
Ha ha! Genius!
Which one of the Modernist Brigade has hi-jacked Big Chantelle's account?
Kevan Shaw
#12 Posted by Kevan Shaw on 28 Oct 2014 at 14:40 PM
Scotland produced some very fine modernist buildings in the 1950s and 1960s including the now lost Scottish Provident. It was wrong for it to be de-listed and wrong to allow its demolition "on a promise" If we are not going to loose more of these important buildings it is important that Edinburgh planning enforces it previous decisions and that HS hold the nerve and do not de-list important buildings, in fact more of this period need protection.
#13 Posted by gbs on 28 Oct 2014 at 15:40 PM
Edinburgh continues to not get the idea of contexturalism...disjointed unsympathetic the normal for Edinburgh city centre I'm afraid.
#14 Posted by Anon on 28 Oct 2014 at 15:46 PM
Sentiment for fine architecture from any age aside; why on earth are such rare opportunities always wasted on the likes of CDA?
#15 Posted by David on 28 Oct 2014 at 17:16 PM
This is a mess. A fairly dumb cladding of a squeeze the floorplates as big as possible commercial scheme. It looks like it took them about half an hour to design, model, and render it.

I don't know the ins and outs of why Historic Scotland de-listed it but I suspect it was a reluctant decision to allow even the alternation of it. A cracking modernist building gone forever, and replaced with a fairly uninspiring radiator, which will be out of fashion before we know it. Or is there a highly intellectual meaning behind vertical fins everywhere with some glass boxes protruding here and there?

#16 Posted by bonvivant on 28 Oct 2014 at 19:56 PM
I feel a carbuncle award coming on. Setting aside the underhand planning process involved, this is a truly atrocious 'design'.
Big Chantelle
#17 Posted by Big Chantelle on 28 Oct 2014 at 20:50 PM
@ # 8

Nice to know I've inspired copycats.

But everyone knows my feelings on this.

You are in the midst of a world heritage site. The buildings are beautiful, ornate, stone and stunning.

So obviously you plank a wonky angled, weird, building in sight of the Scott's monument.That's the right thing to do obviously. Maybe with some luck, they'll open a Burger King in the chapel of Edinburgh castle too. And why stop there.............

I know all you modernists out there will lap this up. You'll call it 'brave' and 'edgy'.You'll see it as an extension of your own architectural views -- namely how it resists tradition and embraces an inferior contemporary aesthetic. But it's actually weak and feeble. It has no contextual response. It's the work of indulgent architects who lack the talent of their classical predecessors so they resort to dumbed down boxes.


Ian Nairn Jr
#18 Posted by Ian Nairn Jr on 28 Oct 2014 at 21:52 PM
I have to say I'm with Chantelle on this. Through sheer size this bland design manages to be overpowering. It's out of scale and, as mentioned above, reeks of the developers 'maximising' floor space. At least lose some of the height chaps, please - you must know what you're doing is not right.
#19 Posted by 'nade on 29 Oct 2014 at 07:16 AM
Chantelle, i genuinely thought that comment was you. A modernist (actually modernist,) building gets knocked down AND doesnt need rebuilt! I thought you'd be over the moon! Take what you can hen..
#20 Posted by hingwy on 29 Oct 2014 at 09:01 AM
The 'radiator' and '30 mins work' comments nailed it.
#21 Posted by Dadabouttown on 29 Oct 2014 at 11:31 AM
It's quite something to get so many things unpleasing to so many eyes - scale, contextual fit, materials, and the key design features - fins and boxes.
Big Chantelle
#22 Posted by Big Chantelle on 29 Oct 2014 at 15:44 PM
Imagine you're going out to a fancy dinner so you wear a nice dress. You wouldn't go and spoil that outfit by putting on crocs, would you? To be fair, that's exactly what big Sheena fae Easterhouse would do but you get my point, namely that we should respect the context.

What is Edinburgh trying to achieve? It could still have a building with all the required floorspace and still have an aesthetic quality in keeping with its surroundings. Win, win.

Why must you modernists out there constantly try and insert completely idiotic schemes into locations which they are not appropriate for? Do you think it's rebellious? Do you think it's edgy? Is it about you projecting your anti-establishment beliefs via architecture?

What's wrong with beauty? Or is it that the architects today -- like modern artists-- are just inferior to those of the past and so make dumbed-down architecture because it's easier than producing greatness? They pretend what they're doing is great but it's actually tedious.

Well modernist brigade -- you'll get the gold clad TK Maxx you dreamed of. Round of applause.
3rd Modernist Volunteer Batallion
#23 Posted by 3rd Modernist Volunteer Batallion on 29 Oct 2014 at 16:04 PM
In your analogy though, would you show up at the fancy dress wearing a crinoline then? Or a modern dress? Or maybe you mean a fancy-dress dinner, in which case you would prefer a pastiche fancy dress facade?
#24 Posted by Gordon on 29 Oct 2014 at 23:05 PM
I don't know if any of you worked in the former Scottish Provident building as I did, but ddespite looking 'cool' from outside I didn't think it worked from within - surprisingly dingy and I remember touching the ceiling on my tiptoes. I don't think it was worth listing.
#25 Posted by Jonathan on 30 Oct 2014 at 00:29 AM
That 2nd image says it all. Incredible rich context that's barely referenced at all. This seems like a really clumsy response (look at those glass boxes!) that could be more or less anywhere (and more or less anything! - is it a car park?!). Would it have been so bad to build something that quietly defers to it's neighbours. The context has a deep classical influence. How can you ignore that?

P.S. Big Chantelle: You can't expect people to respect your views on architectural history when your understanding of it is obviously so limited.
Big Chantelle
#26 Posted by Big Chantelle on 30 Oct 2014 at 07:05 AM
Peepz, I would like to point out a routine tactic members of the concrete lovin' modernists brigade pull. 3rd Modernist Volunteer Batallion in post #23 refers to classically inspired architecture as pastiche. Of course, he means it as a derogatory insult.

Why is building buildings which conform to the latest ecological standards but ALSO embrace, in terms of aesthetic, architecture of the past which PEOPLE OF THE PRESENT PREFER?

And on that note, if anything remotely classical is 'pastiche' and therefore bad, does that mean what is being proposed here is good? What makes it good? The shape, materials? What's great about it? What elevates it above a traditional proposal?

I take it everyone here refuses to wear dinner suits to dinner on account they're pastiche and fashion from the past? And I assume you protest about classical violinists today performing Bach on account "it's living in the past"?

#27 Posted by Xenophon on 30 Oct 2014 at 09:48 AM
The difference BC, is that the 'architecture of the past' was designed as architecture of the present using materials and techniques viable at the time.

Design becomes pastiche when you are trying to replicate the past when really other techniques and materials are available.

I agree that there is a lot of 'bad' modern architecture, which comes as a result of design rooted in the wrong ideas, or stimulated by the wrong motives. But there was 'bad' architecture back in the day too, granted a lot less of it but in the days of yore, people had less time restrictions and less stringent regulations to meet. Of course this again, is no excuse for bad architecture.

There is a plethora of good modern architecture being created, where current building techniques are used creatively and aesthetics are considered thoughtfully.

The problem with trying to replicate the past is that the memory of the built environment becomes skewed. History, time & place becomes more a subjective representation of its self rather than what it is. In essence, we create tributes. Everyone loves a good tribute band, but in reality it's never as good as the real thing.

To summarise with your shoe analogy, yes there are a lot of 'crocs' out there, but there are also some Gucci's & jimmy choo's (Zaha/ OMA) but then there are also those comfy pair of slippers or resilient pair of doc martins that adopt the learned understanding of beauty from the past but also adopt new technology and become a whole new beast. This is what good architecture should be, it becomes timeless but not because it replicates the past. But because it's of good quality.

This proposal lacks in quality because it hasn't learned from the past with regards to scale and proportion and struggles in it's execution because it's style is rather gimmicky.

This is an argument of quality, and not new versus old.

Big Chantelle
#28 Posted by Big Chantelle on 30 Oct 2014 at 11:06 AM
#post27 said "Design becomes pastiche when you are trying to replicate the past when really other techniques and materials are available."

But the 'other techniques' are not superior necessarily.What's groundbreaking about the proposal above? Nothing. Technologically, it contains NOTHING a neo-classical building could not contain.Contemporary architecture can combine the latest ecological technology AND still be aesthetically in keeping with its surroundings. And yes, contemporary architecture CAN be classical in appearance contrary to the modernist brigade out there who would happily tear down half of Edinburgh and replace it with Cumbernauld shopping precinct architecture if they had their way.You seem to be missing that point. And so do the people who have designed the monstrosity.

"This is an argument of quality, and not new versus old."

The quality of the proposal is poor.That's in large part due to the INFERIOR aesthetic appearance of the building which appropriates a non-descript 'modern' boxy look, free from ornament like it surroundings. It deliberately goes out of its way to be so totally different in an area with an established character. A traditional stone building would have been superior whilst still giving all the required floorspace and still getting all those trendy eco ratings.

Big Chantelle's (and most decent folks vision) : traditionally inspired building aesthetics with all the mod-con floorspace technology etc on the inside blending in with existing world heritage site character.

Modernist brigade vision (as shared by so many here) : wonky angles with no meaning juxtaposed with glass boxes with a final flurry of gold on top.In a world heritage site. And totally out of sync.

Art Vandelay
#29 Posted by Art Vandelay on 30 Oct 2014 at 12:13 PM
#30 Posted by Robert on 30 Oct 2014 at 12:36 PM
You can debate the merits of retaining the original building but whatever your view the current proposal is a mess.
Art Vandelay
#31 Posted by Art Vandelay on 30 Oct 2014 at 13:10 PM
Just to clarify, I was referring to post #27...
#32 Posted by Sven on 30 Oct 2014 at 15:00 PM
I will agree with 'Big Chantelle' that "You are in the midst of a world heritage site. The buildings are beautiful, ornate, stone and stunning.". The rest of St Andrews Sq is stone or stone like (the Scottish Provident building blended in because it was concrete and fitted in with the scale of the surrounding buildings).

My issues with the proposed building are that the materials do not fit with the surrounding square, the heights are odd and hence the scale and proportions, there is no clear master entrance to give it architectural unity, so the 4-6 front entrances compete and confuse.
#33 Posted by Xenophon on 30 Oct 2014 at 15:50 PM

None of my argument was in defence of this proposal, which if you read my post again you'll see. I do not see this as good quality architecture.

My argument still stands, and I am not missing your point. However, good quality architecture is still possible in this day and age, without having to be traditionally inspired. Learning from tradition is much more important than imitating.

Those who go down the 'wonky angle' route for wonky angle's sake are usually not purveyors of good architecture.
Art Vandelay
#34 Posted by Art Vandelay on 30 Oct 2014 at 16:48 PM
That's exactly the crux of it. When you look at the qualities of traditional architecture - proportion, massing, articulation, order - all of these can still be embodied in a 'modern' (i.e. present day) building.

What that doesn't mean, however, is that these qualities have to be delivered within direct copies of historical forms. Edinburgh is not a museum piece, and like all cities it has to grow and adapt to suit its circumstances, but it has to do so in a manner that draws on these innate qualities (that all combine to generate the particular richness and character for which Edinburgh is recognised) without sticking a pin in the big book of historical precedents.

The two are not mutually exclusive - a harmonious building in a historic context does not need to resort to ornate stonework to be successful.
#35 Posted by CADMonkey on 30 Oct 2014 at 18:11 PM
Rather than a petty debate about architectural style the interest in this article should be focused on the circumvention of the planning process and how a listed building can get delisted on a promise to rebuild it, planning consent granted on this basis, demolition completed taking out the original building and then a new planning application submitted for a far inferior replacement. CEC Planning Department need to be very strong here and not get bullied into setting a horrendous precedent.
#36 Posted by james on 31 Oct 2014 at 07:35 AM
On a positive note, the best that can be said about this design is that it would make a fairly competent late 1970's 2-storey Finnish Pavilion at some future world expo somewhere at sometime. All it needs are some white birch trees around it. What was that I heard someone say about the design of context and the context of design? Never mind, it can always be recycled.
#37 Posted by Stephen on 4 Nov 2014 at 13:39 PM
Wow. There's genuinely no love for this scheme at all. UR is normally negative but it really must be cr*p given these references...
#38 Posted by iain on 1 Dec 2014 at 08:33 AM
This isn't remotely average. This is tragic. Both CDA and GHA have lost the plot. The scheme is confused and lacks confidence. A bold and modern scheme is required but I am afraid this is neither. It reminds me when Cochrane McGregor spent years on Greenside Pl and ultimately were replaced by AMA.
#39 Posted by Innes on 4 Dec 2014 at 16:18 PM
Just want to clear this up - the Scottish Provident Building wasn't concrete, it was polished granite. Sure, from a distance its not dissimilar but they are definitely not the same.

I think the building is aesthetically very average, it's boring/doesn't really do anything interesting and is in entirely the wrong context.

My main issue with it is CEC and how the handled the application. I don't agree with the removal of the Scot. Prov. Bldg, and I think that as the entire application hinged on what constituted as "knocking it down" means the process was inherently flawed. And yes, it wasn't aesthetically popular, but I get the impression that it could literally have been anything B listed and the outcome would have been the same - that concerns me.

Many people I know, sadly, are all for the removal of the less popular buildings from the 50's onwards, but they still represent our architectural history. I don't think removing that accomplished anything because most of the time, their replacements will be worse.

This is becoming a bit disjointed and rambling, apologies, but the other issue is about what is considered 'good'. Victorian brick, at the time, was considered bad, but apparently not anymore. Don't know how good of an example that is, but hopefully you get the significance.

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