Royal Infirmary to become top learning hub for Edinburgh Uni

An artist's impression of the university Quartermile development. Picture: contributed
An artist's impression of the university Quartermile development. Picture: contributed
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New plans to transform the former Royal Infirmary into a major educational hub for students have been submitted by Edinburgh University.

Detailed designs of the university’s vision for the vacant surgical hospital will be considered by the city council’s planning officials, and if approved, work could start on the 21,300sqm proposal at Quartermile by 2018 and be ready for occupation by 2021.

The proposed facility would be the largest of its kind in the UK providing teaching and learning spaces, a major new public event space, library and cafe and bar.

An Edinburgh University spokesman said: “We’re very excited about this project and have been consulting with the neighbourhood around the next steps of the development.

“We will be revealing more details in the coming months.”

Architects Bennetts 
Associates intend to optimise conservation of key features of the 19th century building including the retention and restoration of the stone walls, slate roofs and entrance hall.

New four-storey “infill buildings” will be constructed in the two courtyards between the east and west hospital wards and will provide space for lecture halls and teaching spaces.

Developers will also remove the existing gatehouse directly in front of the main entrance on Lauriston Place to make way for a new entrance square.

Architects described the moved as “a metaphor of change from “keep out” to “come in” – a key theme in the University’s vision for the redevelopment”.

Project and programme management consultancy, Faithful+Gould is leading the redevelopment of the project at Lauriston Place, with investment from built environment specialist Scape Group.

Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive said: “This incredible building has been at the heart of Edinburgh for more than three centuries. Quartermile is one of the largest regeneration schemes in Scotland and through our framework, the university will be able to offer further world-class facilities ensuring that they continue to attract some of the leading academics and business people of the future.”

The University plans to connect the building into its own energy centre, located next to George Square, creating a link between two parts of the university’s city centre campus – the art college and the humanities and medical buildings.

Facilities will vary from small tutorial rooms to 130 and 500 person lecture spaces as well as social, break-out and meeting spaces, with the former wards being transformed into 60-person collaborative studios considered by designers as the mainstay of the modern teaching environment.

Originally part of the Quartermile masterplan, architects Foster & Partners had planned to convert the building into residential properties but instead sold it to the university in 2015 for an undisclosed sum due to “economic conditions”.

fiona.pringle@jpress.co.uk