Dunard Centre in St Andrew Square
Posted on: September 23, 2021
Our statement of support for the revised plans for the proposed Dunard Centre in St Andrew Square
Address: 35 – 36 St Andrew Square Edinburgh EH2 2AD
Proposal: Erection of music and performing arts venue with licensed café/restaurant and bar facilities, and related arrangements for infrastructure, demolitions, and other works.
Reference No: 18/04657/FUL
Closing date for comments: Sun 3 Oct 2021
Determination date: Unknown
The Cockburn Association has studied and discussed this revised application by David Chipperfield Architects). As with the earlier proposals (2018), we welcome and support these ambitious plans to create Edinburgh’s first purpose-built concert hall in over a century.
This project has potential to make a positive contribution to the artistic life of the city and to act as a transformative catalyst for the economic, social and artistic revitalisation of the streets, lanes and businesses that surround it.
Within the constraints of the available site, the proposed concert hall continues to use the space in a an effective manner. It provides the opportunity to link the new St James Quarter into not only to St Andrews Square but the wider city centre.
Our comments are predicated on the above support, and we hope that further refinements to the design will continue.
Site and Context
- The opening of access through the site, including outside the operational hours of the concert hall is an important objective. We believe that it would be appropriate to put in place a legal mechanism to ensure the public permeability through the site is secured in the long term.
- We remain of the view that it is essential for the floorscape around the new concert hall be integrated with the Registers and wider environment. This should respect the limited palette of paving materials in the New Town and be designed so that the pedestrian environment appears seamless to users who will approach the building from the various access points. Linkages to St James Quarter should follow this approach if possible.
- We continue to advocate that access to the several garden areas by the Registers of Scotland be undertaken at the same time (although we appreciate that there seems some reluctance on the RoS to do so). This could be through a discrete new opening in the existing wall (for the Physician’s Garden) and possibly through a new gate in the railings (for the small grassed area to the south). In essence, there is an opportunity to create a new, interesting and intimate pedestrian quarter, which places the concert hall in the centre of it.
- The single mature beech tree currently extant on the site is most likely a remnant of the former garden landscape of Dundas House and should be retained.
- We have been unable to access the site due to neighbouring construction work so have not been able to assess how well the original test panels have weathered (if they are still on site). Our understanding is that the same highly finished concrete panels are proposed. Based on our discussions with the architects at the time of the first application, we accepted this material given the uniqueness of the proposals and the very high specification of finish proposed. We would therefore suggest that a suitable condition against any planning consent be applied here to give the Planning Authority long-term control over this.
- With the original proposals, the elliptical concert hall itself is shown to have a distinctive façade modelling different from the “edge” blocks. We welcomed this as it helped break down the mass of the building and created additional visual interest within what will be an intimate pedestrian environment. However, as the scheme has contracted and simplified, this juxtaposition has been reduced also, especially at the north-east where the angle is very obtuse. Greater distinction between the elliptical hall section and the northern “edge” block would be beneficial. As such, this appears unresolved, as does the treatment of window openings and the junction of eaves and ground floor levels.
- Similarly, the views to the building from the western entrance to the St James Quarter are important. The blank façade with vertical striations from almost top to bottom and virtually not fenestration presents a hostile frontage from this perspective. Further work is needed to address the massiveness here.
Wider Opportunities and issues
- Unlike the original scheme, the physical connection with the Category A-listed Dundas House is direct and substantial. Whilst we acknowledge that this doesn’t affect the original 18th Georgian property, it is a more significant impact to the listed fabric.
- We continue to believe that consideration should be given to the creation of a ‘processional route’ through the current RBS building with the long-term objective being the integration of Dundas House into the centre, providing all the necessary “front of house” facilities required by a modern concert hall.
- In the wider context of performance venues in the city, we acknowledge that this proposal will not address the needs of the festival and events sectors. The Council have prepared in the past an assessment of need – this should be renewed.
- The use of the hall once built may generate traffic impacts on neighbouring areas including the residential New Town to the north. Large volumes of private vehicles using these streets after the 6:30pm Zone 2 parking restrictions end could result in negative impacts.
The Cockburn Association continues to support this proposal. The creation of a new cultural building is welcome, and we acknowledge the skills of the design team in integrating the sizable building into a very constrained site. We recommend some further revisions and believe especially that the wider floorscape needs to be developed to include the Registers and connections into St James and St Andrews Square, and beyond.