Usher Hall Building, Edinburgh Concert Hall Redevelopment, Extension

Usher Hall Building Edinburgh

Concert Hall refurbishment, Lothian Rd, Edinburgh design by LDN Architects

post updated 12 August 2023

Usher Hall Building – Background Information

Phase I of the Usher Hall refurbishment project was completed in December 2000 (cost: £9.75m). This provided the Usher Hall with new mechanical and electrical installations, upgrades to the fabric of the auditorium and internal spaces, a new stage and provision of removable seating to allow promenade concerts.

Usher Hall Extension
image © Adrian Welch

The second phase of work (c £25m) has provided:

– A dedicated education space;
– Enhanced protection of the Hall’s acoustics;
– Improvements to access and circulation, with free movement throughout the building, a new staircase to link all floors from ground level, lift access to all floors and the creation of level access to the Hall by means of a stone plinth (the “Podium”);
– A new wing housing a café/bar, a new box office area, additional hospitality spaces and re-sited and extended office accommodation;
– Expanded toilet and cloakroom provision (allowing increased audience capacity); and
– Refurbishment and extensions to the dressing rooms and other backstage facilities (in space created by re-siting the offices).

Usher Hall Extension Usher Hall Extension Usher Hall Extension Usher Hall Extension
images © Isabelle Lomholt

The main construction works commenced on site on 19 March 2007. From the 19 March to the 8 August 2007 the contractor completed the first stage of work to the exterior of the hall, piling foundations and digging the basement to support the new glass wing, as well as carrying out internal demolition work to construct new backstage facilities.

The building was returned to the Usher Hall management for the 2007 Festival to take place, with some temporary facilities to accommodate performers and audiences. At the end of the 2007 Festival the site was handed back to the contractor to allow the major elements of the construction work to take place.

Development plans were updated following the discovery of a range of difficulties with the construction site. A dig into the basement in September 2007 revealed that foundations would need to be reinforced to support the new glass wing and the finding of unexpected rock formation resulted in structural engineers ordering deeper pilings to ensure the integrity of the building.

Phase III (Public Realm works) is currently under way. These landscaping works adjacent to the Usher Hall will create a pedestrianised, flexible space which will revitalise the whole area and lend it an appealing, ‘arts quarter’ ambience, thanks to the ease of access it will afford to the Usher Hall and the Traverse and Lyceum Theatres. This phase (cost: £3.95m) is scheduled to be finished before the festival this year and work is progressing well.

The Usher Hall is delighted to be running regular public tours of the building to look at the art works newly installed in the Hall, on loan from the City Art Centre’s nationally recognised collection. Among the works on show are paintings by Sir William Gillies and his lifelong friend John Maxwell, Leon Morocco, Victoria Crowe and William Stewart MacGeorge.

Usher Hall Extension Edinburgh Concert Hall building extension Usher Hall Extension Edinburgh Concert Hall Extension
images © Isabelle Lomholt

HISTORY: Since its beginnings, when Andrew Usher made his historic gift of £100,000 to the City of Edinburgh in July 1896 to found a concert hall, the Usher Hall has become one of the most outstanding concert halls in the world.

A landmark in the heart of Scotland’s capital, it stands for the highest level of musical and civic participation and for the best part of a century it has hosted some of the greatest concerts and events in the city. It has been at the centre of the Edinburgh International Festival since 1947 and boasts a world-envied acoustic.

Fiona Maddocks, Chief Music Critic of The Observer, remarked earlier this year that: “Scotland boasts no more venerable a venue than the Usher Hall”.

With over 200 shows a year, the Usher Hall is proud to offer a truly diverse range of music and entertainment. The Usher Hall is also home to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and has been the centre piece for the Edinburgh International Festival since 1949. Some of the top acts already confirmed for 2010 include:

Usher Hall Refurb Cost
The Scotsman reports Usher Hall refurbishment cost set to rocket by £4.7m. The cost of the project was originally put at no more than £9m in 2002 but costs have continued to escalate, despite council chiefs “pegging” the refit price at £19m in 2006. 150109

Photo of south facade – pop-out extension, 22 May 2009:
Edinburgh Concert Hall south facade expansion
image © Adrian Welch

The adjoining Victorian Royal Lyceum Theatre by CJ Phipps was also refurbished by Law & Dunbar-Nasmith (now LDN), in 1998.
Also adjacent to the Usher Hall is the Traverse Theatre – reputed to have the longest bar in Edinburgh.

Usher Hall – main page on the building
Usher Hall
image © Adrian Welch

Usher Hall Extension – main page on the building extension
Usher Hall Edinburgh
photo from the Usher Hall : The City of Edinburgh Council

Usher Hall refurbishment : LDN Architects

The Usher Hall redevelopment was attacked by the RFACS in 2002

Edinburgh Theatres

Festival Theatre

Edinburgh Playhouse

North Edinburgh Arts

Edinburgh Walking Tours

Scottish building design by LDN Architects: the originalEden Court Theatre

Just to the west of the Usher Hall is EICC The Exchange

New Town RSA
Royal Scottish Academy
picture © Adrian Welch

Scott Monument
Scott Monument
photo © Adrian Welch

Buildings / photos for the Edinburgh Usher Hall Building – Scottish Capital Architecture pages welcome.

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