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Babylon Leith – Housing : Architecture

Leith Housing – design by Smith Scott Mullan Associates

Babylon Leith

Much of the Babylon nightclub on Great Junction St is to be demolished. The site would then be used for 30 flats and a restaurant designed by Smith Scott Mullan Associates.

Leith Housing Leith Housing Leith Housing
Babylon nightclub: refurbishment image by Smith Scott Mullan Associates

The late-30s former Bingo Hall / Cinema was converted into a club in 2002 but closed soon after. The building has little of the panache of some thirties cinemas such as Leicester Square or Dundee Odeons.

Glasgow-based developer Walter Barratt has lodged a planning application but plans to refurbish entrance and foyer

News Update – Sep 2006

198 -208 Great Junction Street
Smith Scott Mullan Associates
Partial demolition, extension and refurbishment of existing building creating new housing, associated car parking and basement restaurant (as amended)
Listed Building Consent Application Granted 06/09/2006

Smith Scott Mullan Associates – Great Junction Street building – PR 180305:

Babylon, Leith

Building History
Built in 1939 as the State Cinema the building was regarded as one of the most advanced cinemas of its day, incorporating billiard rooms, a skittle alley and shops. The decline of cinema-going led to its conversion to a bingo hall and latterly to the unsuccessful Babylon Nightclub. For the past few years it has been mainly empty and gradually declining into a poor state of repair. The new owner has ambitious plans to reinstate it as a landmark building, incorporating a new riverside restaurant and quality high apartments. The building is B listed.

The proposals are for 30 apartments of various types and sizes including 3 penthouses, most with balconies or terraces. All apartments have a dedicated car and bicycle space incorporated in the existing basement undercroft.

The intention is to completely refurbish the front area of the cinema which includes the entrance and foyer spaces, using these as the main access into the development. The cinema “shed” which once contained the auditorium will be redeveloped as a series of stepped elements containing apartments, which are designed around a communal garden terrace. Most have major rooms facing the Water of Leith. The existing shops facing Great Junction Street are incorporated in the refurbishment proposal, with the shop fronts being re-instated to a type more sympathetic to the original building.

The edge of the site facing the Water of Leith will incorporate a new upmarket restaurant, which will be accessed by a glass lift from Great Junction Street and will include an extensive riverside terrace orientated to take maximum advantage of the evening sun.

Quote from Smith Scott Mullan director Alistair Scott:
“We see this project as a major opportunity to improve one of the main entry points into central Leith. The current situation is unacceptable and a building which once must have brought people a sense of enjoyment and excitement now only demonstrates the problems of urban decline”.

“Although the original State Cinema was thought advanced for its day it is interesting that the original design pays absolutely no regard to the neighbouring Water of Leith. Obviously in the late 1930’s this river, which is so prized today, was not thought worthy of any attention. We are proposing to reverse this and make a building which adds life to the river by overlooking it with large windows, balconies, terraces, and a major restaurant. This is an exciting scheme which not only refurbishes an important landmark building but recreates the sense of excitement and drama which the old cinema must have contributed to the streetscape”.

Other Edinburgh Buildings by Smith Scott Mullan Associates


Dynamic Earth
Dynamic Earth Edinburgh
photo © Adrian Welch

Edinburgh Haymarket
picture : RMA

Scottish Parliament

Scottish Architecture

Edinburgh Walking Tours

Edinburgh Property

Leith Docks
Leith Docks Villages
picture from the architect

Hotel Missoni

RBS Gogarburn

Comments / photos for the Babylon Edinburgh Architecture page welcome:

Babylon Leith Building : page