50 George Square, University of Edinburgh

Edinburgh University has been investing hugely in its post war legacy buildings. Although their construction was not without controversy at the time, they have now become listed and much venerated contributions to campus life. The Library by Basil Spence was the first significant refurbishment leading to other buildings that edge the garden square. Our involvement revolves around a grouping of buildings by Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners including the Category A listed David Hume Tower and its basement connection to the four storey Category B listed William Robertson perimeter block completed in 1970. This block has become the new home of the school of Literatures, Languages and Cultures.

Its original, unusual internal spatial strategy has been modified in the transformation. Originally the ‘L’ shaped plan was organised in a tramline, twin corridor layout with cellular rooms exploiting the aspect around the edge and between these tramline corridors, service and support spaces. It is that support space which has been hollowed out to create a top-lit internal promenade stair. The new stair links all levels from the ground floor of mainly teaching spaces, breakout space clusters to support more immediate teaching and learning opportunities, and a more open sense of orientation for building users.

The first floor forms an organisational piano-nobile for the school with a concentration of support services and the introduction of a new circular meeting room in the elbow of the plan,as well as a learning resources setting and bespoke post graduate research space. From this elevated platform the open stair introduces the idea of timber linings which carry on up the building to a new roof level of accommodation, providing a tactile and warm unifying veneer to the academic activities within.

The project has been designed to have a low energy and CO2 emissions impact. It is being assessed to the BREEAM 2008 Education standard and has a target rating of ‘Excellent’.

  • View of refurbished 50 George Sq and Basement courtyard

  • Project room in new pavilion extension

  • New main stair atrium

  • First floor LLC reception

  • 4th floor post graduate space in rooftop extension

  • Refurbished lecture theatre
  • Study pod

  • Basement cafe servery

  • View from George Square