January 9 2008
SMC Hugh Martin has submitted plans to demolish Balfour Stewart House, better known as Distiller’s HQ in Corstophine Edinburgh. The building was designed by RMJM in 1981 as a HQ for the drinks company United Distillers. The application has been made on behalf of Rumney Manor, an investment company owned by multi-millionaire and Blackpool Tower owner, Trevor Hemmings. The agents Ryden and Atisreal claim to have marketed the building extensively. The City Council is due to make a decision on the application in January. In a lengthy report produced by Turley Associates and SMC Hugh Martin the applicant argues that the ‘outdated’ office building could not be upgraded for commercial use because the layout doesn’t comply with contemporary work place values. In an exploration study the architects demonstrated that the building could be converted to residential use, creating a new courtyard within the existing building, but the option was dismissed because it would not create sufficient value to make it commercially viable. The application proposals for flats and town houses, fills the site, rather than following the footprint of the original building which was designed to reflect the pattern of development in area, which was made up of standalone villas in private, often walled gardens. Historic Scotland has said that the building is architecturally significant as the part of RMJM’s body of work and as an early example of Post-Modernism and a new historicism in Scotland. The building is not listed but it sits within a conservation area and Historic Scotland suggests in its advice to the planners that under NPPG18 and the other guidance they should seriously consider re-use before demolition is approved.