Old Town Fire, Edinburgh, Architect, News, Building, Development, Project
Edinburgh Old Town Fire : Architecture
Edinburgh Fire, Cowgate / South Bridge, Old Town, Scotland
Old Town Fire Competition
Old Town Fire Site – May 2006 Update
Images requested of announced Whiteburn proposals by Allan Murray Architects: still at an outline stage with likely uses still to be confirmed: Edinburgh Fire Site
The Cockburn Association and James Simpson (Simpson & Brown Architects) called for the South Bridge to be restored to its original 18th-century designs, by Robert Kay but influenced by Robert Adam, in late 2004.
South Bridge is the first urban viaduct of its kind in Europe, followed by Waterloo Place in Edinburgh and Union Street in Aberdeen.
James Simpson maintains The South Bridge, built in 1785-90, is as important as The Mound by William Playfair. The road is supported on a series of 20 arches enclosed and lined by tall tenements on either side. City of Edinburgh Council have identified South Bridge as a target for public realm improvements from the Cities Growth Fund. The South Bridge had also been earmarked for the third tram route, which should help the area.
South Bridge – fire competition website: southbridge.org.uk
Cowgate: Single Developer
The Cowgate Competition took place in Dec 2004 extended deadline into Jan 2005, shortlist of six. A preferred bidder was selected by the jury, led by John McGregor the chartered surveyor appointed by the land owners. The identity of the developer is confidential while final negotiations are concluded but it is understood four developers made a serious bid.
OLD TOWN FIRE, Cowgate, Edinburgh – Cockburn Association Comment
If you go the corner of Nicholson Street and Nicholson Square you will find a gap site that is surrounded by hoardings. This was the scene of a fire twelve years ago and still nothing has been developed. Problems determining the ownership have left it a sad blot in the Southside. On Princes Street the building at the foot of Castle Street was also the product of a fire. It took a decade to provide a replacement building. The main problem being that of ownership.
A great book on my shelf is Edinburgh Since 1990 (Ninety Years of Photographs) which has a section ‘Dial 999! Here pictures of the Gaumont fire (1962), the big fire at C&A Princes Street (1955), at the lounge bar Champers in Shandwick Place (1979) and even a green goddess fighting a blaze at the Cauldron on West Bow (1978).
Fire in Edinburgh has certainly been part of the history of the city. In this recent case, one has to be simply thankful that we did not rely on the Green Goddess. I am told that the devastation would have been enormous.
With an ideas competition being started for the Old Town Site our attention is already turning to the future. Indeed, the fire had not been extinguished before the press turned their attention to the question of how to replace the buildings. My biggest desire is to see a lift joining the Cowgate and the South Bridge to improve pedestrian circulation in this split level site. It will not be enough to provide the equivalent of the Scotsman Steps, it must be mechanical.
What the Old Town Fire has also done is brought a focus to the plight of South Bridge and also highlighted residents concerns over the number of licensed premises in the Cowgate. How can we maintain the gritty character of Cowgate and promote a vibrant future for the Bridge. If we look at recent developments on the Cowgate we see that no one has been able to provide a building of merit for some years. The Siglo bar must be considered a joke in scale and materials. We also see a wide range of empty units underneath the University accommodation, which is a sad reflection on the state of the area.
It seems to me essential to maintain a high level of workshops and small offices in the area. I would also argue that the Gilded Balloon was a positive resource for the area that provided a great deal of activity and vitality.
My biggest concern, however, is that ownership problems will blight the site and we will retain a gap site for another decade. It is my opinion that a Trust needs to be formed to take forward the re-development of the whole site. This may have access to funding form the Lottery, City Council, Scottish Executive etc. Its main role would be to work in partnership with the owners, potential occupiers, residents and other interested groups to promote a successful replacement.
This Trust could also call on the City Council to promote a Compulsory Purchase Order, if required. This Trust should take the development of the gap site on Nicholson Square forward in recognition that we cannot rely on the owners to take forward a scheme.
Martin Hulse, Cockburn Association Winter 2003
photograph © Adrian Welch
Old Town Fire Ideas Competition, Edinburgh
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