Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh Art Museum Building Photos, Architect, Project Images

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

SNPG Building Renewal, Edinburgh, Scotland: Redevelopment

post updated 6 January 2022 ; 6 Aug 2014

Scottish National Portrait Gallery Building

new photographs, © Adrian Welch, from Aug 2014:

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

One of the 50 UK buildings that have won an RIBA Award in 2012 – new photos, 23 + 21 Jun 2012:

Scottish National Portrait Gallery Scottish National Portrait Gallery Scottish National Portrait Gallery Scottish National Portrait Gallery Scottish National Portrait Gallery
photos © Andrew Lee

A RIBA Award winner in 2012.

28 Nov 2011

Scottish National Portrait Gallery Reopening


The Scottish National Portrait Gallery (SNPG) will open on 1 December, following an ambitious £17.6m restoration project and with an entirely new presentation of its world-famous collection. The project – the first major refurbishment in the Gallery’s 120-year history – has restored much of the architect’s original vision, opening up previously inaccessible parts of the building and increasing the public space by more than 60 percent. It has also added a range of new facilities that will utterly transform visitors’ experience of the Gallery. Entry to the new Portrait Gallery will be completely free.

‘Great Hall’:
National Portrait Gallery Edinburgh
image © National Galleries of Scotland, photography by Chris Watt

The Collection

The SNPG opened in 1889 as the world’s first purpose-built portrait gallery and is now an iconic landmark in the heart of Scotland’s capital. Over the past century, its collection of portraits has grown to become one of the largest and finest in the world, comprising 3,000 paintings and sculptures, 25,000 prints and drawings. This distinctive red sandstone building also houses the national collection of photography with some 38,000 historic and modern photographs.

‘Ramsay Room’ and ‘Hots Scots’:
National Portrait Gallery Edinburgh National Portrait Gallery Edinburgh
images © National Galleries of Scotland, photography by Chris Watt

For the first time since the Gallery was established, access to the exhibition spaces on all three levels has been opened up, while the restoration of the magnificent suite of top-lit galleries on the upper floor has created one of the most impressive display spaces in Scotland. As a result, a much greater proportion of the collection will be on show, bringing to light a wealth of art works that has been, until now, largely hidden from view.

Edinburgh building design by architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson Scottish National Portrait Gallery Arts and Crafts building designed by architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson Edinburgh Arts and Crafts building design by architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson

The New Displays

The new displays will follow a chronological pattern but will also focus on various themes and subjects in greater depth, exploring the richness of Scottish history and culture in a more cohesive and interconnected way, and telling the story of its people and places through the lens of the visual arts. Individual portraits – from Mary, Queen of Scots to Dr Who actor Karen Gillan – will be set in a broader context of thematic displays ranging from the Reformation to the present day.

Supported by loans from other collections, and by a fresh approach to information and interpretation, including trails, themes and an interactive touchscreen gallery, this new presentation of the permanent collection will help bring to life the portraits and the stories behind them, as well as exploring many facets of Scottish life and the nation’s wider influence throughout the world. The displays are designed to change and evolve so that over time, the public will have access to different aspects of this extraordinarily rich and diverse collection.

The Photography Gallery

The new Portrait Gallery will, for the first time, include a major space dedicated to showcasing the Gallery’s unparalleled holdings of Scottish and international photography, as well as newly commissioned work by contemporary photographers. The significance of photography will be emphasised throughout the Gallery, where it will be integrated into many of the displays.

The Contemporary Gallery

On the ground floor, the Contemporary Gallery will bring the story up to date, with a series of displays from the Gallery’s collection of contemporary portraits, special loan exhibitions, and commissions from some of Scotland’s most celebrated contemporary artists. The inaugural display will feature Missing, a video installation by Graham Fagen, commissioned as part of a unique partnership between the Portrait Gallery and the National Theatre of Scotland.

The Building

The refurbishment of the Gallery, a magnificent Arts and Crafts building designed by the celebrated architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson, has been overseen by Glasgow-based architects Page Park. Their sensitive design has restored many of the building’s original features, which had been hidden behind an accumulation of twentieth-century interventions, while incorporating essential modern services, such as the great glass lift that will take visitors up through the heart of the building.

The remodeling of the ground floor has improved circulation for visitors, as well as providing an open and airy view along the entire length of the building. Office space has been cleverly accommodated in a new mezzanine level and, for the first time there is an education suite, with a seminar room and studio space. In addition, the Gallery’s ever-popular café and shop have doubled in size.

The refurbished Gallery will also make use of a number of pioneering techniques to achieve a significant reduction in energy consumption. Using the mass of the building, new insulation and sophisticated controls to permit slow changes over wider ranges of temperature and humidity, the gallery spaces will use 42 percent less energy that previously. In addition, the Gallery will be lit by cutting-edge, low-energy LEDs (light-emitting diodes) which combine economy with excellent colour rendering qualities.

The Learning Programme

An extensive and dynamic learning programme complementing the new displays, called Portrait of the Nation: Live! will be an integral part of the re-invention of the SNPG. This has been devised to engage a very broad range of visitors, both on- and off-site, as well as on-line. It will help to realise our vision of the Portrait Gallery as a unique, responsive and essential portrayal of Scotland that will stimulate, engage and build relationships with audiences both at home and abroad.


The £17.6 million refurbishment has been funded by generous contributions from the Scottish Government, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Monument Trust and a number of charitable bodies. This has been supported by an innovative and engaging public campaign which has given donors the chance to sponsor historical figures in the stunning frieze created by William Hole in the Gallery’s Great Hall; individual stars in Hole’s mural mapping of the night sky, which adorns the Hall’s ceiling; or to include a photograph in ‘Put Yourself in the Picture’, an electronic donor screen and online gallery.

John Leighton, Director-General of the National Galleries of Scotland, commented: “The new SNPG will be a superb setting to showcase rich traditions of Scottish art and photography; it is also a forum where issues of history and identity come to life through art; perhaps, above all, it is a place where individual and collective stories and memories come together to create a fascinating and imaginative portrait of a nation.”

James Holloway, Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, added: “Scotland’s national portraits at last have a home worthy of them. Our great iconic building now looks tremendous and is the perfect showcase for our rich and unique collection.”

First Minister Alex Salmond said: “The Scottish National Portrait Gallery celebrates well-known Scots from throughout the ages; whether they are some of our greatest thinkers or our modern actors and actresses. All aspects of Scottish life and achievement are encapsulated in the many artworks which will now be displayed to their utmost as part of this ambitious £17.6m restoration project. The improvements to the magnificent building will allow visitors to experience much of what architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson envisaged in his original design as it continues to showcase Scotland’s greatest asset – its people.”

Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “The restoration of this magnificent building will allow visitors to appreciate its architect’s original vision while showcasing Scotland at its very best. The opportunity to view substantially more of the Gallery’s treasures and take part in imaginative interpretation trails and education activities will delight visitors of all ages. HLF is proud to be a partner.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery Reopening information received 281111

Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh

Address: 1 Queen St, Edinburgh
Date built: 1895
Architect: Robert Rowand Anderson

Edinburgh Arts and Crafts building by architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson
photo © Adrian Welch

18 Mar 2011

Scottish National Portrait Gallery Renovation Funding

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery redevelopment project is to receive funding of £2 million.

The Scottish Government announced the funding boost for the Portrait of the Nation project, which aims to restore the building and double the amount of gallery space.

The building on Edinburgh’s Queen Street is due to reopen in November 2011.

24 Jan 2008

Scottish National Portrait Gallery Redevelopment

Location: Queen Street, central Edinburgh


The National Galleries of Scotland is delighted to announce that Page Park Architects has been appointed to Portrait of the Nation, the ambitious project to refurbish and transform the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh. This £17.6 million project will involve the repair, conservation and creative adaptation of this magnificent Arts and Crafts building, which opened in 1889 as the first purpose-built national portrait gallery in the world.

Starting from an urgent need to restore the building, the project aims to forge an innovative and exciting new gallery. Portrait of the Nation will double the amount of gallery space within the building, and will reinvent the way in which the national collection is displayed, with a new focus on photography and Scottish art. The project will also create a range of enhanced visitor facilities and a new Education Suite, including community gallery, art studios and seminar room.

Scotland Arts and Crafts building designed by architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson
image courtesy of architects practice

Selected from a shortlist of prominent architects, Page Park is a thriving Glasgow-based practice, working across a number of sectors including public building, conservation, education, housing and commercial projects. The practice has a reputation for thoughtful and dynamic design, responding to what are often challenging and sensitive contexts. Its previous and current conservation projects include work on the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow; Glasgow School of Art; Rosslyn Chapel Conservation and Access Project; and St Vincent Street Church, Glasgow.

Work on Portrait of the Nation will begin in 2009, with a provisional completion date of autumn 2011. The aim of the project is to conserve and enhance the building designed by the celebrated architect, Sir Robert Rowand Anderson, in 1882. Page Park has been charged with preserving the integrity and coherence of Anderson’s design, which remains relatively unscathed. Twentieth-century interventions, including partition walls and lowered ceilings, will be removed and essential new interventions will be designed with a thorough understanding of Anderson’s original concept.

New features will be added to the building, including a mezzanine level in the south east and south west wings, and a new glass feature lift that will operate from the ground to the top floor. Improved access to the top floor will allow visitors to reach a suite of five beautifully proportioned top-lit galleries, while the transformation of previously underused areas of the building will lead to a 50% increase in public and gallery space.

The ground floor will be remodelled to improve circulation through the building, and visitor facilities will be added, including an enlarged café, shop and cloak room. The new front entrance will be redesigned to become more welcoming and accessible and to cope with an increased number of visitors to the gallery.

The architects will work with the team at the SNPG to ensure that the design is sustainable. The project team will consider the design of the building, the way in which construction operations are undertaken and how the building is used and maintained to ensure that the National Galleries’ aspirations to incorporate sustainability and environmental considerations are fully addressed. The building will minimise energy consumption, achieve awareness of energy management generally and promote good standards of environmental practice.

It will optimise the use of natural daylight and ventilation wherever possible, and the environmental control systems will allow effective energy management. The choice of all materials, services and equipment throughout the building will be based on the principles of sustainability and low maintenance.

Speaking of the appointment of the architects, James Holloway, Director of the SNPG, said: ‘‘I am delighted that Page Park are now on board. With the whole design team in place we are all looking forward to getting to work in earnest on this amazing project. We plan to use this uniquely resonant Scottish building to bring the story of Scotland – its peoples, histories, places and cultures – to the widest possible audience.

The result – Portrait of the Nation – will be like no other gallery; it will radically extend the ambitions and national role of the NGS, consolidating Scotland’s capital as one of the top international cities for visual culture.’’

John Leighton, Director-General of the NGS, added: ‘‘We have been working on Portrait of the Nation for a number of years and are very excited to see our plans beginning to come together. We see this project as key to the realisation of the Galleries’ recently restated mission which places a much greater emphasis on our audience and on providing visitors with an experience that is both friendly and first-class. We have been very impressed by Page Park’s work in conserving sensitive buildings, and are looking forward to working with them, and the rest of the design team, in delivering our vision for the Portrait Gallery.’’

Last month the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Scottish Government pledged major contributions to Portrait of the Nation. HLF Trustees awarded the project a Stage One pass for £4,531,000 and development funding of £269,000. Linda Fabiani, Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture, announced the Scottish Government’s support for the project with a contribution of £5.1 million.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery
photo © Adrian Welch

Scottish National Portrait Gallery renewal architects : Page Park

National Portrait Gallery Renewal Details
Notes to Editors The RIBA1 Stage C design proposals presented in the Stage 1 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund were prepared by a consultant team selected some years ago by means of competitive interview. Over the course of the last year, the NGS has undertaken a new selection process to procure consultants to take forward the Stage C designs.

This procurement process has been in compliance with European procurement requirements for government-supported institutions. As importantly, the process has allowed the Galleries to ensure that we are now working with the strongest possible team to develop and deliver the project. In terms of the principal disciplines, Gardiner & Theobald as project managers and Page Park as architects have been re-appointed to carry forward their previous work.

The team has also been strengthened in two areas. Davis Langdon, who worked on the Playfair Project (which involved the refurbishment of the Royal Scottish Academy Building and the creation of Weston Link), will take on the quantity surveying and cost consultancy roles. Harley Haddow, who provided a supplementary report on conservation conditions in our Stage 1 application, will be our new service engineers and will realise our developing sustainability ambitions.

The full team is as follows: Project managers Gardiner & Theobald (Martin Sinclair) Cost consultants Davis Langdon Architects Page Park Lighting designers Foto-Ma Structural engineers Will Rudd Associates Service engineers Harley Haddow Fire engineers Buro Happold FEDRA

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is a ‘must see’ building – intricate craftwork and sculptures of famous Scots in old red sandstone externally; triple-height beautifully-lit entry hall with mural-in-frieze format of noted Scots in chronological order by William Hare (refurbished by LDN Architects).

Contact the Scottish National Portrait Gallery: +44 (0)131 624 6200

Scottish National Portrait Gallery architect : Robert Rowand Anderson

Address: 1 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2, Scotland

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