Virgin Hotels Edinburgh Victoria Street, New Scottish Capital Accommodation, Guest Rooms Lothian
Virgin Hotels Edinburgh Victoria Street
14 June 2022
Virgin Hotels Edinburgh. Historic. Modern. Playful. Creative ingenuity.
Location: in between The Royal Mile and Greyfriars Kirkyard
Address: 1, India Buildings, Victoria St, Edinburgh EH1 2EX
Phone: 0131 526 4810
Virgin Hotels Edinburgh
14th of June 2022 – Nestled in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town and a UNESCO World Heritage site and designed by Ica, an architecture and interior design studio specialising in hospitality, the first Virgin Hotel outside the USA has recently opened in the oldest part of Scotland’s capital.
In an area of the capital renowned for its varied topography, picturesque medieval streets, closes and wynds and diverse architectural character, Ica’s challenge was to combine the restoration of three distinctly separate ‘at risk’ listed buildings, which occupy dramatically different levels within the local cityscape, with new build elements carefully considered, to re-establish the historic form of the site, whilst also showcasing a bold, contemporary Edinburgh.
The Ica team’s heritage know-how combined with their creative talent and world-leading hospitality expertise led to a design that was able to unlock the viability of this challenging city-centre site.
Ica’s design allows for the three listed buildings to be linked both to each other and to the new build part of the hotel with sympathetic yet modern interventions, creating a new flow through the complex site and deliberately framing unexpected views out into both the more intimate bustling local streets and closes and towards the grander views of Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town roofscape. Ica’s design also provides for dramatic public spaces, rooftop gardens and cosy bedrooms, creating a bold contrast between old and new, light and dark, modern and traditional.
In working with existing buildings, every project has its inherent quirks and there are always challenges. However, the key to a successful refurbishment is careful planning, creativity, and lateral thinking. Ica have mastered the art of ‘expecting the unexpected’ and are adept at designing a well-executed historic development, combining the existing elements of unique properties with the perks and privileges of a contemporary luxury hotel.
An archaeological excavation unveiled significant historical artifacts – including siege weapons that have re-written the city’s history. City Archaeologists dated some of the finds to the 10th century, and a portion of the original city walls was uncovered. The project was extensively de-risked through ¬exploration of the existing building fabric, excavation of the gap site and refinement of the design. Prior to and throughout construction, Ica provided design team leadership, conservation advice and design and construction information, building on an already close relationship with contractor Thomas Johnstone.
With the hotel nestled in an area steeped in history, an intricate design solution for the new build exterior façade was embraced, creating layers and depth. Skilled at working within the existing topography and with local Planning and Historic Environment Scotland guidance, Ica’s exploration of potential design solutions, along with a detailed understanding of the local Old Town character produced a bold, yet sympathetic design, which allows the new hotel to blend seamlessly into Edinburgh’s distinct topography and roofscape. Sandstone was used to allow the new build elements to sit harmoniously with neighbouring buildings, while showing glimpses of modern detailing in the stonework, gables, windows, and rooflines. Balconies were partially hidden, wrapped in glazing with a printed sandstone image, allowing light into the rooms, while presenting a discreet stone outer skin to the street.
‘’We worked closely with Ica to take a very challenging gap site linking three listed buildings in the centre of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, creating a striking and playful city destination hotel with multiple spaces for guests to enjoy. Ica’s combined knowledge of historic building conservation and luxury hospitality design is second to none.’’
Luigi Gatti Bonati & Mark Valentine, Flemyn LLP
The interior, however, is anything but hidden. Collaborating with the Virgin Team, Ica’s interior designers brought the brand’s playful concepts to life, designing for Edinburgh’s past and future and creating joy in the unique spaces that the Virgin brand offers within both the listed and new build elements of the building. The existing grandeur of the exterior extends into the interior design to enhance the features of the listed buildings while anchoring everything in the signature Virgin experience. Original features were retained – a beautiful domed glass rotunda with authentic decorative cornicing captures the eye as you arrive at the atrium, a modern take on a classic library and beautiful timber panelling is retained and extended within the ground floor public bars and restaurants.
In combining the old with the new, more contemporary design features were sprinkled throughout the hotel to inspire wonder and awe: a glass-panelled corridor leading to the reception area, a very modern ‘scarlet lounge’ sitting within a very traditional corniced room and the exposed stone in the Commons Club restaurant combined with eclectic lighting and artwork bring a playfulness to the public spaces.
‘’Virgin Hotels Edinburgh is our first hotel outside the US, so it had to be special. We’re thrilled with the design Ica delivered. Edinburgh’s character and Virgin’s signature brand are strikingly reflected in both the interiors and exteriors.’’
Teddy Mayer, Vice President Creative Director, Virgin Hotels
222 luxury Chambers and Grand Chamber Suites are combined with a variety of bars, restaurants, and private dining spaces at street level enlivening both Victoria Street and Cowgate and opening out onto re-established closes, a semi-public external courtyard and a stylish new rooftop garden sanctuary, showcasing unobstructed views of Edinburgh Castle and Greyfriars Kirkyard. The Chambers themselves combine sophisticated neutral tones and pops of bright red colour, faithful to Virgin’s signature brand.
The brand’s flagship Commons Club restaurant and bar, a show kitchen, and Funny Library all opened as part of the first phase launch. The second phase will see the opening of Greyfriars Hall – a 19th-century church repurposed as a special event venue, Eve – all-day dining and late-night entertainment space at Cowgate and a roof terrace garden with dramatic views over Edinburgh Castle and across the Old Town.
For the team at Ica, this new hotel is the outstanding result of many years of specialised experience, a lot of hidden hard work in both design and technical expertise to de-risk and make the project viable, conceptual talent, a love of hospitality and a flair for problem-solving.
Photos: Virgin Hotels Edinburgh
Ica – Hospitality, Architecture & Interiors
Ica is an architecture and interior design studio creating welcome change around the world.
Established in 2003, Ica is regarded as one of the world’s leading hotel architecture and design practices. A team of architects and interior designers collaborate to bring the very best ideas to clients all around the world — from the Caribbean to Camden.
Address: 20 Bell Street Glasgow G1 1LG
Telephone: +44(0)141 552 2194
Virgin Hotels Edinburgh Victoria Street images / information from Ica Glasgow
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Comments / photos for the Virgin Hotels Edinburgh Victoria Street Architecture page welcome