Redevelopment of St.Cecilia's Hall

Watch St.Cecilia's Hall here.

We imagined St.Cecilia’s Hall as an old instrument that was in need of a new mouthpiece.

This stance informed all of the architectural moves that we made in our approach to the redevelopment of the existing Category A-Listed building complex.

The context for this project was the desire by the University of Edinburgh to improve awareness, function and amenity of St. Cecilia’s Hall, as an appropriate home for their world-class collection of musical instruments.

The redevelopment project involved the conservation and repair of the existing building; the bringing together of the musical instrument collections of the University of Edinburgh under one roof; and the full refurbishment and expansion of the existing gallery spaces and Concert Room. This included the reconfiguration of support functions within a new extension building to enable the facility to be accessible by all.

For associational interest the architectural emblems of Saint Cecilia are provocative. As architects, we like to work with associations as architecture is not only the physical fabric but the ideas and thoughts that influence it. By extension, our embracing new ‘L’ volume becomes imagined as an instrument, taking cues in form, texture and materiality from the qualities of the musical instrument collection - rooting the building and collection in their settings. The highly decorated soundboard of the 1725 Francis Coston double-manual harpshichord provided the inspiration for the embellishment of the bronze stainless entrance facade to Niddry St. The parrot and flower patterns of the harpsichord interior were also subtly embossed into the exposed concrete soffit of the entrance foyer and incised into the gilded ceilings in the support accommodation.

This significant cultural project aspired to enhance the existing building setting and musical instrument collection contained within the remarkable grouping of rooms off the Cowgate. It was a wonderful opportunity to create a sensitive, yet bold new piece of civic architecture within the Old Town context for the University of Edinburgh.