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Shoppers flock to Edinburgh's St James Quarter

June 24 2021

Shoppers flock to Edinburgh's St James Quarter

A 16-year journey to revitalise the Edinburgh St James Centre is drawing to a close with the phased opening of the 850,000sq/ft retail-led destination.

Having watched the centre rise, transforming the skyline forever in the process, the public can now venture inside a dramatic curved galleria, modelled on the sweeping crescents which define the New Town.

Project architect Allan Murray, now at Allan Murray Design, talked Urban Realm through the design ahead of the opening: "It's got one major move which is the curved gallery, it invites you through. It's not a door as such, it's the threshold made by two buildings. The curved galleria is no different to the baroque geometry of the New Town and that's what makes it special. If you look at Google Maps it looks like another crescent."

More than just another shopping centre St James is conceived as a natural extension of the New Town, standing as a knuckle that connects the Old and New Town's while resolving the awkward geometry of roads that disconnected James Craig Square and the Registry Lanes area from the beating heart of Princes Street.

"This is in the liminal space between the formal geometries of the New Town and the happenstance messiness of the Old Town," says Murray. "It's got a leg in both parts. We wanted to recognise that it merges the two."

The opening comes at an inauspicious time for the retail economy but in a show of confidence over 40 retailers have committed to phase one, including a range of food and drink pop-ups along Little King Street.

"It's nothing to do with a shopping mall, it's creating a new space in the city. We can shop online but you can't sit in a cafe and people watch," remarks Murray.

The £1bn development replaced the 1960s St James Centre and will welcome a steady stream of phased additions through the remainder of the year including a cinema, hotel and apartments.

The Edinburgh skyline will never be the same again
The Edinburgh skyline will never be the same again
This 244-bedroom hotel will not open until next year
This 244-bedroom hotel will not open until next year


Voice of treason
#1 Posted by Voice of treason on 24 Jun 2021 at 10:37 AM
The text from Allan Murray is either delusional or dishonest. The St James is demonstrably not part of the New Town. The crescents of the New Town sit within an orthogonal geometry, the arc of the St James is at best pragmatic, a desire line for those bent on a consumer high. The hotel is alien to the Georgian townscape. It is an embarrassment for the architectural profession and the people of Edinburgh. While the golden turd has turned out more bronze than gold, it has not lost the smell.
Majka Kozlowska
#2 Posted by Majka Kozlowska on 24 Jun 2021 at 12:16 PM
Firstly, I am not quite sure what is a shopping mall when it’s not a shopping mall. Secondly, and more importantly, looking at the skyline photo I am transported to Turkey, association signified with an unmistakable crescent above St.James’s. I am puzzled.
Fat Bloke on Tour
#3 Posted by Fat Bloke on Tour on 24 Jun 2021 at 14:41 PM
Hotel is poo central.

World class Kalahari hunter gatherer level -- the twist at the end is the giveaway according to a friend of a friend who knows about this kind of stuff.

But poo none the less.

I fear that the design team was trying too hard -- no pun intended.
#4 Posted by Millek on 24 Jun 2021 at 15:53 PM
If you look on Google Maps it is still the old building and New St Andrew's House lol.
#5 Posted by Paul on 24 Jun 2021 at 17:15 PM
I could be wrong, but I didn't think Allan Murray was responsible for the golden turd. Certainly not its final design anyway, which was by an international firm.

Its such a shame because the entire scheme (which is overwhelmingly positive in my view) will, quite rightly and understandably, be judged by the turd.
town planner
#6 Posted by town planner on 24 Jun 2021 at 18:16 PM
I don't know what your turds look like folks, but I like most of the development, apart from the sections where budget presumably didn't allow them to use the same nice stone. Looking forward to a wander through.
I Alexander
#7 Posted by I Alexander on 24 Jun 2021 at 20:59 PM
Whatever people think of the development can we get away from poos and turds. It is what I might expect from young kids. Some people need to grow up.
#8 Posted by Hilloch on 24 Jun 2021 at 23:54 PM
"Liminal", "happenstance", "nothing to do with a shopping mall" - a selection of pompous, condescending rubbish.

The scheme will be judged for what it is - on the face of it, an outdated and unnecessary form of urban planning, with a sub standard quality to the building fabric and a centrepiece that yells for attention. In practice, maybe it will be successful...only the footfall will tell. I sure hope it is successful, though ah huv ma doots, unfortunately
Voice of treason
#9 Posted by Voice of treason on 25 Jun 2021 at 08:45 AM
#5 Yes, Allan Murray is not responsible for the Hotel, but UR included a picture of it and that just pushed me over the edge.

#7 The hotel detracts from the world heritage status of Edinburgh’ skyline. It is important that it is understood as a poor addition. That is why the name Golden Turd is both appropriate and should be used by people of all ages and stages of mental development.
#10 Posted by monkey9000 on 25 Jun 2021 at 09:26 AM
Well said #7 it's actually a jobby, we are in Scotland afterall, would be good to see the correct vernacular used in the discourse.
#11 Posted by Ben on 25 Jun 2021 at 09:42 AM
This development is awful. I almost prefer the old St James Centre! This is modern architecture at its worst. Really hideous and a terrible piece of cityscape.
#12 Posted by Ted on 25 Jun 2021 at 13:11 PM
On bing maps it is referred to as "the golden turd".

One thing which I feel has not been in enough of the debate is, what the impact this centre has (will have) on the city centre. In my opinion the crescent is more like a U magnet, sucking the city centre to the east. What will happen to the west?

I would be interested to see how many of the "over 40 retailers have committed to phase one" are already in the city centre and how many will be vacating units elsewhere in the centre to open new stores here?
Jimbob Tanktop
#13 Posted by Jimbob Tanktop on 25 Jun 2021 at 16:13 PM
Let's look at the bigger picture here and bathe in the knowledge Edinburgh now has another 6 shops selling three t-shirts for 12 quid. This can only be an amazing shot in the arm for the economy at a time of etc etc
Gandalf the Pink
#14 Posted by Gandalf the Pink on 25 Jun 2021 at 21:05 PM
Princes Street has fallen to the tartan tat Gold clan. The biggest effect this will have on the city centre is providing resident shoppers the opportunity to avoid kitch bagpipe music being pumped out of kashmere flogging hellholes.

Like it or not, this will prove to be exceedingly popular for those who want to shop without the gauntlet of tourist.

As for architectural merit... time will tell.
G Man
#15 Posted by G Man on 25 Jun 2021 at 21:17 PM
Looks like a bit of Turkish Delight, but apparently it's full of Eastern Promise ????
I Donald
#16 Posted by I Donald on 26 Jun 2021 at 21:47 PM
Another 'me too' shopping arcade. No design value whatever. Opportunity lost.
Paul Skrgatic
#17 Posted by Paul Skrgatic on 28 Jun 2021 at 10:23 AM
Really disappointed to read al these wholly negative comments. Personally I am really impressed with the new St James Quarter and to be honest the East of the City Centre has been crying out for this for year. The W hotel is actually a ribbon to signify that a printers once stood in that position. You need to look at the whole of the City Centre developments being built and planned just now and set the St James Quarter in context. We have the likes of the new 5 story Jonnie Walker experience Building sitting in the okd Fraser’s foot print in the west. Redevelopment of Princes Street and George Street into more pedestrian friendly / active travel routes. Including new hotels, bars and restaurants on Princes Street. Then if you follow the George Street route through St Andrew’s Square, onto Mulberry Walk and then through the quarter we have a full connected leisure, stay, entertainment and shopping route. Not forgetting being able to fast track that route by jumping on the tram at multiple points then onwards to Leith Walk and The Shore. I love it and so do many others.
#18 Posted by modernish on 28 Jun 2021 at 12:16 PM
"It's not a door as such, it's the threshold made by two buildings."....except, of course, there is a door!
That being said, I've still got plenty of time for AM due to the, in my view, success of the Missoni. Decent response to a tricky series of urban constraints, let down slightly by the post-rationalist justification. Architects shouldn't be afraid to say the brief was to create lots of shops that retailer want and that's what we've done.
#19 Posted by Paul on 28 Jun 2021 at 13:33 PM
"The W hotel is actually a ribbon to signify that a printers once stood in that position."

I read that too. Desperate stuff, and if sincere, even worse.

Take the hotel out of the equation and the scheme is overwhelmingly positive.

The hotel, sadly, is atrocious, and is says little for the judgement of anyone arguing otherwise.
#20 Posted by dadabouttown on 28 Jun 2021 at 21:48 PM
Loving the slightly sad negativity of all the unhappy folk on here who find the addition of something usefully functional, usefully densifying and by and large architecturally non offensive to the city centre so appaling. Who cares what the architects fluff says - judge it on real world terms and quite honestly, get a life.
#21 Posted by Hilloch on 30 Jun 2021 at 10:39 AM
As I said, the development will be judged on it's success. I agree with you. I hope it is successful.

There is negativity, yes. However a lot of that negativity is warranted. Much of that is on the developer, in putting a shopping mall there they are planting a flag to an out dated mode of retail. It's a prominent CC site so attracts a lot of attention.
The turd meanwhile has attracted a lot of criticism (I can see why, I personally don't rate it) but I'm over it now and perhaps like you a little tired of the whinging.

Verbal diarrhoea from architects should however be called out, it's not helpful to bridging the already large gap between the academic 'thinkers' (let's apply that term broadly!) and the general public.
Especially, when it is used in such an incoherent way, as it has been here.

I should also say that 'non-offensive' to me is not a virtue! You might as well call it banal, boring or uninspiring. Which it largely is. Do you think people flock in their thousands to Edinburgh for it's 'non offensive' architecture?
#22 Posted by nevermind on 2 Jul 2021 at 10:28 AM
what about the impact of the displacements from Princes Street/ George Street? the internal paving/flooring materials look like they have been down for 10 years already. ... and as for the shopping experience - marred by bouncer managed queues everywhere!!
#23 Posted by Chris on 6 Jul 2021 at 15:00 PM
So Edinburgh has just dropped a piece of 1980s out of town retail right into its centre. Great move. Apart from the awful design this will not doubt lead to Princes Street and George Street becoming with even more empty units. The city centre is looking really run down these days.

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