Na­tional trea­sure is at stake

The Scotsman - - Perspective -

It is nat­u­ral to be wary of any opin­ion poll com­mis­sioned by one side of a two-way ar­gu­ment, so the find­ing that 80 per cent of lo­cal res­i­dents in Ed­in­burgh back the de­vel­op­ment of a mu­sic venue over a ho­tel at the old Royal High School will be taken with a pinch of salt by cyn­ics.

How­ever, in this case, the find­ing does ring true, even if the fig­ures might be open to de­bate. A re­cent leaflet­ing cam­paign demon­strated vis­ually how the ho­tel de­vel­op­ment will look, and many will have seen for the first time how the de­vel­op­ment aims to com­bine the neo­clas­si­cal with the mod­ern. It’s a prac­tice that is pos­si­ble, but it is a bold am­bi­tion for a build­ing that the pub­lic as­so­ci­ates with Ed­in­burgh’s ar­chi­tec­tural splen­dour.

At present, the ho­tel de­vel­op­ers have a lease agree­ment with the city coun­cil, and pledge to re­store and re­gen­er­ate “this na­tional trea­sure”. That is an ac­cu­rate de­scrip­tion of the build­ing, but it has to be re­mem­bered that the part that is trea­sured is the ex­te­rior. If the build­ing is to have a new fu­ture, its re­gen­er­a­tion should have min­i­mal im­pact on the rea­son we care about it so much in the first place.

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