Edinburgh Printmakers, Castle Mill Works Redevelopment
Internal Floor Area
Re-purposing our industrial heritage for contemporary artistic production.
The Edinburgh Printmakers creative hub is located within the former headquarters of the North British Rubber Company (NBRC). Our project involved the redevelopment of this derelict building into a multi-use arts complex centred around printmaking production.
Central to the architectural concept was to make precise interventions to facilitate new use while respecting the character and story of the existing building.
The NBRC building is the only surviving structure from the once important nineteenth century Castle Mills industrial complex. During the First World War, over one million pairs of rubber boots were made for the army at Castle Mills.
New architectural elements are light of touch and stem from an understanding of the heritage. The bold new entrance onto Dundee Street provides a public face for Edinburgh Printmakers, offering views from the street directly into the galleries, reception and shop.
The new extension to the rear subtly shifts the heart of the building to create a central courtyard around which all building users can meet and interact. The print studio sits at first floor in the triple-height former fitting and turning workshop. Our approach was not to whitewash the many stories of this space, but instead to allow a new layer of occupation that adds to its ongoing narrative.
The Edinburgh Printmakers developed an ambitious brief for their new Creative Hub. They were keen to capture all the characteristics of their successful existing facility at Union Street, but also expand their business to create a more inclusive facility for the production and display of art. The new accommodation includes a large printmaking studio – 50% larger than their current facility – dark room, two galleries, cafe, shop, education room, various archive and storage rooms, staff accommodation as well as creative industry studios.
Shared spaces for creative industry practitioners from the fields of art, craft and design to work collectively are increasingly popular, as people see the benefits in collaborating and sharing resources. The Edinburgh Printmakers Creative Hub includes eight creative industry studios, along with an artist in residence flat, which provide rentable space for a diverse range of tenants.
Edinburgh Printmakers commissioned three new permanent artworks for the building. We have worked closely with the Printmakers and their selected artists to facilitate the coordination and integration of these works into the construction process.
Project architect, Suzy O’ Leary, was commissioned to design one of the permanent artworks in collaboration with visual artist Calum Colvin and architect Peter Smith. Their installation, The Castle Mills EPscope, is a fantastic synthesis of periscope and kaleidoscope. The sculpture is a response to the idea that architecture can bear witness and perpetuate the distant memories of a long-forgotten life.
Heritage & Conservation
The North British Rubber Company (NBRC) Office Building is the only surviving element of a once large and important 19th century industrial complex in Edinburgh which was internationally renowned at the height of its industrial output, exporting products around the world. Its most significant contributions to industry include the production of both the vulcanised tyres in 1875 and the invention of detachable pneumatic tyres in 1890, the forerunner of modern tyres. The company was also highly significant for producing high quality rubber boots for World War One and various rubber based products for combat in the Second World War. At its height, it was the largest industrial site in Edinburgh, occupying over 20 acres and employing over 3,000 people.
The NBRC Office Building is Category C listed and has particular value in relation to the historic industrial and social heritage of the area. The building is also a rare example in the area of a building of 19th century polychrome brickwork and it retains some original detailing to the interior dating to 1916.
Our proposal for redevelopment prioritises the importance of preserving the historic fabric. The brown paint covering the original brickwork was carefully removed and individual brick repairs carried out using salvaged bricks where necessary. The roof was entirely re-slated using Burlington Blue, HES approved slates. Internally, extensive rot repairs were carried out including truss end replacement throughout the print studio. We looked to expose the original structure and brick walls where possible, to maintain the industrial quality of the key spaces.
The interior design for the project was led by our in-house interiors team and focused on the development of the new reception/shop area as well as the café/bar.
We carried out a detailed analysis of the client’s existing shop facility, reviewing and analysing the operational requirements of the existing reception and shop, whilst being mindful of the Edinburgh Printmaker’s aspirations moving forward. Through looking at three identified visitor roles – exhibition visitor, shop visitor and commercial buyer – we mapped out flow diagrams for each scenario to help understand how EP operate and how the purchasing process for each visitor functions. Following on from this, we developed a bespoke interior solution incorporating print browsers, a curatable display wall, display shelving and a multi-functional reception desk/till point to create the high quality, shopping experience desired.
In the café / bar we looked to maintain the industrial character of the original building, and re-use salvaged materials where possible. Glazed bricks discovered behind layers of plasterboard in the old basement partitions were re-used to create the new servery counter. Timber doors, formally of the fitting and turning workshop, we re-modelled into bespoke café tables.