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Cockburn welcomes IMPACT Centre proposals

Posted on 12 Oct 2018 by Joe

The Cockburn Association welcomes and supports the ambitious plans presented by IMPACT Scotland to create Edinburgh’s first purpose-built concert hall in over a century.

We welcome the considerable effort the developers have undertaken to positively consult with a wide variety of stakeholders – including residents – throughout the development of the final design for this project.  And we acknowledge and welcome the changes made throughout the design process because of the meaningful consultation and engagement exercises.

In our view this project has a very real potential to make a significant 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 is an effective and positive use of space.

We note that some of the smaller scale details of this project will be finalised when a contractor is appointed.  We would welcome any opportunities for further dialogue at that time.  At present we would like to make the following observation which we hope are constructive.

Overall, we were impressed with the critical thinking and evaluation by the Design Team and found the outcome of the design process compelling and supportive.  We offer the following detailed comments:

  • The opening of access through the site, including outwith the operational hours of the concert hall is to be welcomed.  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.
  • Discussions on the final detailing of the project should be in the public arena.  Given the location and prominence of this project, as little detail as possible should be addressed through planning conditions.
  • The choice of final surface finishes has still to be made.  We think it would be appropriate to make some acknowledgement to the stone context of the concert hall’s setting.  Again, before any final decision is taken, we would advocate a sample panel to be erected on site.
  • Elevationally, there remains some discussion to be had in terms of the specific treatment of wall surfaces.  The elliptical concert hall itself is shown to have a distinctive façade modelling different from the “edge” blocks.  This helps break down the mass of the building and creates additional visual interest within what will be an intimate pedestrian environment.  However, elements of this are still unresolved, including the treatment of window openings and the junction of eaves and ground floor levels. 
  • The roofscape of the annex blocks has still be finalised.  We believe that a simple, but clear, roof detailing is required to terminate the horizontal elevations of these blocks. Similarly, given the visibility of the roofscape, large expansive sections of panelling should be avoided.
  • We acknowledge the considerable connectivity of this site with Edinburgh’s public transport network.  However, it is likely that many concert attenders will come by private car and will be tempted to park in nearby residential areas of the New Town.  Whilst we appreciate that this is an operational matter, we would strongly advocate some relationship with the operators of the new car park associated with the St James Quarter be put in place, with perhaps concessionary ticketing for evening performances (when the car park is less likely to be used).  Similarly, the integration of concert and public transport ticketing would be advantageous – (i.e. buying a bus or tram ticket as part of the same purchase).
  • In our view, it is essential that 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 would also 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 Physican’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.
  • Long-term consideration should be given to the creation of a ‘processional route’ through the current RBS building.
  • The origin of the single mature beech tree currently extant on the site is worthy of consideration.  If this is a remnant of the former garden landscape, then it may be appropriate to continue a historical horticultural link through the propagation of cuttings to be used in the concert halls outdoor plantings.

 

We would be delighted to remain involved as the scheme continues through the detailed design phases.