Modern sites join historic buildings for open door event

Kevin McLean in Leith Sheriff Court, which is set to join Doors Open Day.
Kevin McLean in Leith Sheriff Court, which is set to join Doors Open Day.
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OLD Leith Sheriff Court and the 15th century Liberton Tower look set to be among the highlights of Doors Open Day this year, as an anonymous donor provided much of the cash needed to fund the event.

Modernist structures from the 1950s to the 70s will also be opened to the public later this year.

Organiser the Cockburn Association said there were many architectural treasures hidden behind the doors of seemingly functional buildings often derided for their appearance.

Participants will be finalised over the next two weeks, but the monolithic Edinburgh University Library and a stylish eco-home in the south of the city are among the proposed 80 or so locations.

The long-forgotten Leith Sheriff Court is located above Leith Police Station and has recently been restored for a mock trial run by pupils from nearby schools.

The Cockburn Association has been in discussions to open it to the public for the first time on September 22 and 23.

Liberton Tower, the four-storey keep once owned by the Dalmahoy family, is also likely to feature on the final list, as is St Andrew’s House, the imposing art deco structure built into Calton Hill which serves as the Scottish Government headquarters.

The Cockburn Association received an anonymous donation to fund a large portion of the £24,000 operating costs.

Euan Leitch, assistant director, said: “The level of donation determines the number of buildings we can include in Doors Open Day and we’re very much rely on the generosity of those who donate funds.

“Yesterday we received an anonymous cheque for quite an amount which covers a portion of the costs and for which we are very grateful.”

Last year, Historic Scotland and Edinburgh city council produced a report on post-war buildings which highlighted their importance to the development of the city.

These include the colourful Canongate flats and the former Scottish Widows building on St Andrew Square, both designed by Sir Basil Spence.

Mr Leitch added: “Many people might not appreciate these examples of architecture and it is perhaps an opportunity to appreciate the high- quality design of the 1950-1970s, a period that gets a bad rap. And so this year’s theme of hidden treasures is particularly relevant.”

The annual Doors Open Day has steadily grown in popularity and was the focus of the 2008 Ian Rankin novel Doors Open in which a heist is undertaken at the National Gallery of Scotland storage depot in Granton.

Two years ago, the Royal Bank of Scotland had intended to open the doors of its £335 million headquarters at Gogarburn but pulled out due to the potential for protests following its government bail-out.

Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage, said this year’s event would be a big draw.

“It’s wonderful that this year the event will look at these buildings from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s which aren’t always seen as part of the city’s heritage but act as the backdrop to our daily lives,” he said.

“Buildings normally in private hands are opened up. People naturally want to explore and this gives a tremendous opportunity to do so.”