Royal High School architect ‘is urban Godzilla’

Godzilla makes an appearance on the plans for the Royal High School which have been drawn up by Gareth Hoskins
Godzilla makes an appearance on the plans for the Royal High School which have been drawn up by Gareth Hoskins
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ONE of Scotland’s leading architects has been compared to the Japanese movie monster godzilla in a damning dossier to global watchdogs Unesco about the Capital’s world heritage site.

Award-winning Gareth Hoskins has won the unlikely comparison months after revealing plans to transform a neglected landmark into a luxury hotel.

Gareth Hoskins. Picture: Jon Savage

Gareth Hoskins. Picture: Jon Savage

Unesco officials – who are being urged to strip the Capital of its world heritage status – have been told his blueprint would lead to the “desecration” of the old Royal High School on Calton Hill.

A 36-page dossier lodged with Unesco by leading heritage campaigner and conservationist David Black demands an urgent intervention over what he describes as “a deep-seated crisis at the historic heart of Edinburgh”.

Two developers are facing huge opposition to the proposed hotel over plans to create large extensions on either side of the A-listed building, widely revered as one of the highlights of the city’s “Athens of the North” skyline.

The Glasgow-based architect was selected five years ago to lead plans to bring the 1829 building back into use for the first time since 1968.

Developers Duddingston House and the Urbanist Group have agreed a 125-year lease with the city council for a £55 million scheme they say will create 640 jobs and generate £27m for the economy. But the heritage body has been warned the city is “about to wreck” a building of world-importance, which is hailed by Mr Black as “a carefully-devised Scottish acropolis”.

The dossier also condemns a number of other schemes Mr Hoskins has worked on in the city, including the overhaul of the Royal Museum building, a modern retail development which has seen the loss of several historic blocks on St Andrew Square and a scheme for a New Town site which will see the demolition of one Victorian building and the removal of all but the facade of another.

Mr Hoskins is accused of trying to “reinvent” the old Royal High School building by Mr Black, who added: “It is as a godzilla of the urban realm that Mr Hoskins seems to be making his mark in Edinburgh. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to think of a more unfortunate mismatch between an architect and a restoration project.”

Mr Black claims that rather than offer protection, world heritage status has instead “turned out to be the corporate developers’ Trojan horse,” with the people of Edinburgh having only recently “woken up” to the threats posed by new developments. He states: “It seems at times as though the favoured position in dealing with the city’s built heritage is to destroy its historic character.

“One expects corporate capitalism to be red in tooth and claw. One even expects greed and vanity-driven modernist architects to exploit every opportunity to flex their godzilla muscles and foist their crazed visions upon the rest of us.

“What we tend not to expect is complicity and collaboration from authorities and ‘guardians’ charged with protecting the urban environment.”

A spokesman for the two hotel developers said: “Mr Black is entitled to his colourful opinion. We remain entirely focused on saving the building and creating a world-class attraction.”

Mr Hoskins was unavailable for comment.

The horror icon that has scared audiences for six decades

IT is now more than 60 years since he first wobbled on to Japanese movie screens.

But there is no sign of interest waning in Godzilla, the fearsome character whose first appearance was meant to symbolise nuclear holocaust.

Godzilla was even dubbed “King of the Monsters” for Ishiro Honda’s 1954 original, which was inspired by a real-life incident when an American hydrogen bomb test contaminated a Japanese fishing boat.

However the design of the movie character was thought to have been inspired by the “Rhedosaurus” monster in another science fiction film, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.

The first Godzilla film, contoversially re-edited for American audiences in 1956, featured a costume weighing more than 200lb, which actor Haruo Nakajima was only able to walk around 30ft in.

Godzilla has since been depicted in more than 30 films, including two Hollywood blockbusters, in 1998 and 2014, as well as video games, novels, comic books and even songs.