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General Post Office Edinburgh

Waverley Gate : GPO project, Scotland – design by Hugh Martin Partnership

1 Oct 2001

Post Office Edinburgh

Editorial : October 2001

Last month saw fewer landmark schemes than preceding months, (with Jeffrey Street, theGeneral Post Office and C&A projects). Looking to the future, the opening of the Ocean Terminal (4 Oct), the long-awaited launch of the Policy on Architecture for Scotland and the unveiling of the New Structure Plan for Edinburgh & the Lothians are key events.

My recently-expressed views in Saturday’s Glasgow Herald and the Sunday Herald the preceding weekend were brief continuations of the themes advanced in the Prospect and The List magazine articles. Whilst the forthcoming RIAS Big Debate at the Hub will be intriguing, conversations with many of those due to take part show much common ground. Only when one uses concrete (!) examples, I would suggest, can the differences really be tested. No one article can identify and construct an exhaustive and fairly-balanced personal summarisation, agenda or argument: snapshots are useful at energising the public, highlighting issues, but the agenda is surely progressed by Editorials, letters and conversations.

What is clear (in addition to running the website I’m an AHSS member and sit on the Cockburn Association Cases Committee) is a common ground between the forces and supporters of ‘conservation and evolution’. This useful bridging is formed of despair at the medocrity of design in large parcels of development across our city. Bob Cairns writing in The Edinburgh Evening News (article, news 01.10.01) states that Edinburgh must compete“aggressively in the global market to survive”. How do we compete? do we follow the London Docklands model of ‘build ’em high’ and sod the quality? Or do we create considered architecture, integrated into strategically-planned infrastructure, with interwoven public realm? The docks areas seem to be randomly sprouting ‘landmark’ buildings surrounded by ‘leftover’ spaces, with infrastructure (if you’re lucky) trundling along behind. Assurances of quality mean nothing when set against what has already been built, such as – in Leith – the Holiday Inn, the Casino and the Tower Street flats.

This website is about architecture, not transport, but good public transport for these colossal sites should be a prerequisite, not a bolt-on subsequent to commencement. The railway station at Edinburgh Park is a positive move, and this large area of development has used some of our best architects and landscape architects. The Granton-to-Leith zones’ ‘infrastructure’ seems to be less conclusive: schools, libraries, clinics, creches, playgrounds – are these coordinated and well-designed? With curious claims of the new‘New Town’ being bandied around by the developers, can we expect world-class innovative design of everything from bus stops to local shops?

A school has been proposed for the huge Newhaven promontory, but, like the PFI Programme for Edinburgh Schools, there seems little chance of innovative design-led architecture emerging. Hertzberger’s life-affirming lecture at this year’s RIAS Convention showed how the Dutch (like most European nations) have embraced innovative intelligent thinking for decades in their ‘public’ works.

Will Edinburgh do the same? Our future cityscapes must not be based solely on the developer’s bottom line.




Opposite the GPO is Register House
General Register House
photo © Adrian Welch

Close by the the west is Jenners
Jenners
photo © Adrian Welch

Immediately to the south is Waverley Station
Waverley Station
photograph © Adrian Welch

Scottish Parliament

Missoni Hotel Edinburgh

Harvey Nichols




Buildings adjacent to the General Post Office Edinburgh
include St James Centre and the Balmoral Hotel (below)
Balmoral Hotel
image © Adrian Welch

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