Princes Street stores, Edinburgh shops, Scottish capital city shopping, Scotland retail outlets

Princes Street Shops, Edinburgh Store

Edinburgh Shopping Street, Scotland – Architectural Review of the buildings and public realm

Cockburn Association Comment:

Princes St: Redevelopment, but when?

Princes Street Edinburgh

There is an increasing focus being given to the fortunes of this street. The Galleries proposals brought into sharp focus the problems that the city centre faces. Indeed the issues were well documented in the Princes Street Panel Report of 1967.

However, the retail heart of the city has now shifted east with a golden triangle being created. Jenners, John Lewis and Harvey Nichols provide a fantastic core to the city centre retail scene. Princes St is going to have to adapt to its new role and environmental improvements are essential to improve its image.

Mount Royal Hotel
photo © Adrian Welch

Some people are following the Princes St Panel’s conclusions and promoting wholesale demolition of buildings as the only way of improving Princes St. You may not agree but actually one of my favourite post-war buildings in Edinburgh is British Home Stores (Bhs) in the middle of Princes St. For me, this is the Panel building that oozes style and sophistication. Funnily enough Historic Scotland refuse to list it!! Why then are 3D struggling to design a building to replace C & A Edinburgh that is in context with the rest of the street? Was Bhs actually designed in context?
So, how do we accentuate the best buildings? I want to see a shopfront improvement scheme on Princes St to re-integrate the sticky out bits at the bottom with the rest of the building. Maybe then people could appreciate more of the splendour of buildings such as the Royal British Hotel and the Royal Overseas Club. And then we could examine the lighting policy on Princes St and illuminate these hidden jewels.

Princes Street
image © Adrian Welch

Street Lights
We also need to look at the way Princes St is lit. If you examine a picture of the street in the early 1900’s you will see the uniformity given to the street by a row of classical lampposts along its entire length. I am told the current lighting of the street actually won an award when it was installed. A certain member of the Edinburgh conservation scene joked that they won top prize in the prison lighting category.
The question remains as to whether we should reinstate the old design or look for something completely new but of an individual design. I like the quote from the submission document for Edinburgh 99, which states that ‘Too many British city streets have acquired a bland uniformity through their catalogue selected design’. Is Edinburgh doing the same?

Princes Street
image © Adrian Welch

One aspect that you would think the City Council could overcome is that of clutter. As soon as you start looking you will be amazed as to how many empty poles and how much obsolete furniture you can spot. Success did arrive last year with the removal of the six huge tripods that littered Princes St. What I am now calling for is attention to be paid to the rest of the city centre and I am hopeful that many will be removed before the summer. However, more thought has to be given to the Golf Sale Sign and the Burger Caravan in front of the New Town RSA.

Princes Street
image © Adrian Welch

Princes St Shopfronts
In terms of clutter, most attention is being given to the actual shopfronts on Princes St. One of the great problems being that many of the buildings were not designed as shops. As I have already mentioned there are major problems with the sticky-out bits on the ground floor. However these are made worse by the colour, materials and proportions chosen by many retailers to advertise their presence.
It appears necessary for the Planning Department to become firmer with these occupiers and demand improvements to their design. Indeed many of the shopfronts lack planning permission for their monstrosities. I would however commend Royal Sun Alliance for their temporary shop front on Princes St underneath the New Club. This bright pink covering helps to remove the detrimental impact of an empty shop and should be used as best practice throughout the city.

Princes Street building
photo © Adrian Welch

Traffic along Princes St
The other form of clutter is taking longer to eradicate. The proposals for removing cars from Princes St have been struck by huge delays. Therefore action to create pedestrian squares at the foot of Castle Street and Frederick Street could be affected. This latter street needs urgent attention to improve the pedestrian flow along Princes St. The pedestrian is not given enough priority in our city centre and after countless documents promoting change we are no nearer to improvements.

Initiatives, therefore, are desperately needed to kick start the revitalisation of this street. The City Council, therefore, should be supported in their move to raise investment in public realm works in Princes St and the city centre.

They have recently directed £1m for improvements to Princes St and a further £1m for Lothian Road during 2002/2003. This type of funding can create a difference and change the perception of visitors, retailers and residents, though it will need to continue for a number of years.

Martin Hulse, Cockburn Association

Princes Street Building Designs

Princes Street Property Designs – recent architectural selection below:

Princes Street Redevelopment
Edinburgh City Centre Regeneration

Princes Mall Edinburgh
Waverley Centre, Shops
image © Adrian Welch
Princes Mall Edinburgh

Princes Street Gardens
Princes Street Gardens
image © Adrian Welch
Princes Street Gardens

Princes Street Proposals
Princes Street Shopping Comment

Princes Street Vision
Princes Street Vision

Princes Street Framework
MFA Princes Street Framework

Jenners Store

Princes Exchange

Scottish Capital Building Designs

Scottish Capital Property Designs – recent architectural selection below:

Harvey Nichols Edinburgh

Hotels Edinburgh

BMA Scotland HQ
Design: John Robertson Architects (JRA)
Angela St Clair-Ford - British Medical Association HQ Edinburgh
image courtesy of architects
British Medical Association HQ Edinburgh

Buildings / photos for the Princes Street Shops page welcome