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Edinburgh Filmhouse shrinks after going under the lens

December 15 2020

Edinburgh Filmhouse shrinks after going under the lens

Plans to erect an 11-storey 'temple for film' in Edinburgh's Festival Square have been reduced in scale following four-months of public consultation.

The New Filmhouse has undergone a significant reduction in height together with improved access arrangements from the scheme as first proposed by Richard Murphy Architects in March - although it retains its distinctive oculus form and monumental quality.

Serving as a new home for both the Filmhouse and Edinburgh International Film Festival the revised design reduces the number of floors while retaining key infrastructure such as a rooftop terrace and public viewpoint, screens and an events space.

In a statement, Sandy Begbie, chair of Centre for the Moving Image, wrote: "Submitting the planning application for a New Filmhouse in the midst of a global pandemic might seem like strange timing. However, this is a proposal that has been 30 years in the making, with detailed planning over the last 3 years and crucially, is for the long term.

"The New Filmhouse will be unashamedly contemporary in design, but designed and built for the long term. It will be inclusive, inspiring and financially sustainable, and it will operate on a net-zero carbon basis from its first day of opening. It will be sited within the heart of the city’s cultural quarter, and will be the catalyst that transforms and animates the underutilised and unloved Festival Square."

In an accompanying design statement, the architects added: "The plan form of the building is neither circular nor oval. The two curves of the south and north elevations never meet each other but at the eastern end they are terminated to make a dramatic elevation to Lothian Road and at the west end they conclude with the main staircase wrapped in etched glass."

An updated planning application has already been filed with a decision expected by summer 2021, although construction is not expected to get underway until 2023 at the earliest. 

A basement cafe bar will be flooded with light from a glazed rooflight
A basement cafe bar will be flooded with light from a glazed rooflight
Overlapping curved facades echo the monumentality of the Usher Hall
Overlapping curved facades echo the monumentality of the Usher Hall

Revised plans retain the vertical structure, including 5 double height cinema screens, an events space and foyer
Revised plans retain the vertical structure, including 5 double height cinema screens, an events space and foyer
The full fat Filmhouse plan as it was first conceived
The full fat Filmhouse plan as it was first conceived


#1 Posted by David on 15 Dec 2020 at 09:17 AM
Truly awful. It looks like a motorbike helmet. When will the quality of new build proposals in Edinburgh improve? They are amongst the worst in the country.
#2 Posted by CG on 15 Dec 2020 at 12:25 PM
This looks great! Exactly the kind of bold statement building that is needed to transform Festival Square.
#3 Posted by spike on 15 Dec 2020 at 14:15 PM
Why do we need to put anything there ?
Surely having a open space is in itself appealing?
#4 Posted by CB on 15 Dec 2020 at 14:24 PM
#3 Anything that screens the view to the Sheraton is a plus...
#5 Posted by Hilloch on 15 Dec 2020 at 14:25 PM

The space there is terribly underused, stale and poorly animated. I think a building in the location where it's proposed will at least provide some life to the surroundings.

My personal concern is that the building itself isn't great to look at.
#6 Posted by Cadmonkey on 15 Dec 2020 at 17:11 PM
I like the design, but home it doesn't have a playful "rusticated base" anywhere.
However I hate to spoil the party, but the reported £60M build cost means this will never ever get built.
It seems reckless with stakeholders funds, and a tad arrogant, to go and try to obtain planning permission without having funding secured.
There is no evidence on the City of Edinburgh Council Planning Portal of a full planning application having been lodged by the way.
I am keen to analyse the method of fire escape from the underground auditoria.
2 Unlimited
#7 Posted by 2 Unlimited on 15 Dec 2020 at 17:23 PM
Absolutely no danger this is getting built for those numbers. Especially with that massive basement. Sorry but your costs are dreamland stuff
#8 Posted by Ken? on 15 Dec 2020 at 17:44 PM
Exciting civic proposal that enhances the grim, corporate side of Lothian Road. I like its relationship to the Usher Hall and the mildly Bladerunner-esque screens on the facade. Don't think it needs the apologetic stone though...
Sadly, with all the big studios heading towards streaming I can't help thinking this building is already out of date already. Costs are pure madness n'aw. No danger etc...
jimbob tanktop
#9 Posted by jimbob tanktop on 15 Dec 2020 at 19:08 PM
I'm a little less cynical about its chances. It seems ideally placed to garner about £20m a year in rent from a variety of Jaks and Jocastas for touting their annual parade of one-person shows examining Stuff That Matters with a side of Something Must Be Done.
#10 Posted by Peter on 15 Dec 2020 at 19:33 PM
It looked impressive, now it's crippled. Was it the only reason for downsizing a voice of Patsy from Oxgangs who'd loose that view on 2sqm of Castle walls? Otherwise I see none why this building couldn't stand in originally submitted form.
Wee Jimmy
#11 Posted by Wee Jimmy on 15 Dec 2020 at 22:18 PM
I'd like to see the site used for something more beneficial to the environment, maybe put some allotment gardens there so people can grow organic fruit and veg.
Positive Comments Only
#12 Posted by Positive Comments Only on 16 Dec 2020 at 10:18 AM
The activity at ground floor will be a welcome addition to what is an empty vacuous space. The building itself is... Challenging.
#13 Posted by MV on 16 Dec 2020 at 10:58 AM
#1. Motorbike helmet. Once you see it... you can’t stop seeing it!

I’m ok with adding a building to the square, breaking down what is a large space, just not with this design. £50m of the £60m must be underground.
#14 Posted by Cadmonkey on 16 Dec 2020 at 13:12 PM
Can we have a link to the Planning Application?
#15 Posted by ur on 16 Dec 2020 at 13:20 PM
The planning app hasn't been validated yet. It should go live later this week. Here's the PAN
#16 Posted by cg on 17 Dec 2020 at 08:50 AM
@#8 Glad I'm not the only one getting a distinctly Bladerunner vibe from the visuals! If you can't do that with a building built to show projected moving images then when can you?
#17 Posted by HellyHansen on 18 Dec 2020 at 10:12 AM
The public space is empty, unused and windswept, so a good idea to use it differently. But what an ugly building, like so many in Edinburgh (not to mention the golden t**d hotel elsewhere). And why are they all round? It will age poorly.
#18 Posted by Terra_ on 22 Jan 2021 at 16:56 PM
Hope its built. I think they should have kept it at the height it was.

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