Observatory sees big cash boost for art gallery vision

An artist's impression of the gallery plans. Picture: City Observatory

An artist's impression of the gallery plans. Picture: City Observatory

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THE transformation of a derelict 18th-century observatory on Calton Hill into a modern art gallery has been given a six-figure cash boost.

The new modern art Collective gallery will see historic buildings that have lain empty for more than five years refurbished and a new pavilion built in the north-west corner of the walled compound.

Celebrated architect Malcolm Fraser has been signed up to redevelop the William Playfair-designed observatory, visible across much of Edinburgh, that dates back to the construction of the city’s New Town.

A new space will be excavated beneath the historic Playfair Building, and the walled courtyard landscaped, with a spiral walkway taking visitors around the site, which hosted astronomical equipment as long ago as 1788.

It has now been named among the latest sites to benefit from a £1.6 million Historic Scotland investment scheme. The Calton Hill project will get £233,000 towards the £3.5m redevelopment.

Edinburgh Printmakers, meanwhile, will get £500,000 to spend on its transformation of the former North British Rubber Factory in Fountainbridge.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “This scheme helps to protect and promote, as well as transform and bring back into use, some of Scotland’s most historically and architecturally significant structures and buildings.

“Across the country, historic buildings which played an important role in our past also have an important role to play in our future, with schemes such as these helping to tell a new chapter in the building and its surrounding community’s future.”

Calton Hill’s observatory is just a few dozen metres away from another contentious development site, the Old Royal High School, where a campaign is being waged against plans to create a luxury hotel.

Council chiefs have previously backed the plans to reopen the “architectural and cultural gem” to the public.

Last month, the Evening News told how a £10m revamp by Edinburgh Printmakers would turn the told Castle Mill works into a “world-class” exhibition, workshop and education venue. Due to open in 2018, the abandoned structure will house a printmaking studio, two accessible galleries and a dedicated learning space.

The plans, drawn up by Page & Park architects, will see Edinburgh Printmakers move from existing premises in Union Street as part of a wider transformation of Fountainbridge.

Senior figures at the organisation also said they would look to open their archive of print artworks to the public for the first time. Historic Environment Scotland chairwoman Jane Ryder told the Evening News: “It’s fantastic to see the continuing commitment from the Scottish Government to invest in schemes which protect some of the most at-risk buildings in the country.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com

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