Inspiration behind Edinburgh St James Centre unveiled

It's a project that aims to re-imagine the shopping experience of Edinburgh city centre.

Wednesday, 5th June 2019, 2:53 pm
A visualisation of the new Edinburgh St James Development. Pic: Edinburgh St James.

With just over a year until the first retailers are set to move in to Edinburgh St James, followed by hotels and homes a year later, the shape of this £850 million project is starting to emerge.

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And now some of the major design influences behind it have been unveiled.

A visualisation of the new Edinburgh St James Development. Pic: Edinburgh St James.

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Martin Perry, director of development for Edinburgh St James, said: "The scheme has been designed to create an intuitive and accessible circuit around the city. Anchored by places and experiences, it will draw people from one place to the next, becoming a key component of the map of Edinburgh.

"Inspired by the great gallerias of the world, including Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, to BCE Place in Toronto, the integrated approach to the planning, design and management of the project will create a unique, inspiring place to live in and visit."

From Milan to Toronto

The spectacular Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is an elegant 19th century shopping arcade - shaped like a Latin cross covered by a glass iron dome - which houses some of the most luxurious boutiques in Milan. Inside, you can find everything from Prada and Gucci to famous cafes and restaurants - and even a McDonald's.

The Register Square entrance at Edinburgh St James. Pic: Edinburgh St James.

Construction of the Galleria began in 1865 under architect Giuseppe Mengoni, and is today still considered the "parlour" of the city - a place to relax and enjoy a coffee and be enchanted by the artistic beauty of its marble interior filled with mosaics.

The former BCE Place in Toronto, now known as Brookfield Place, contains everything from shops and restaurants to offices and rental car services to attractions like the Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame.

It combines surviving historic buildings with tower blocks and contemporary architecture. Often dubbed the 'crystal cathedral of commerce,' the six-storey galleria consists of several freestanding steel supports enclosed by glass, reminiscent of a country road lined with maple trees which culminates at a sunny public square featuring a central fountain.

Edinburgh St James Design

The interior of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

The idea of a street that feels like an outdoor pedestrian street with a glass covering comes from the galleria.

Designed by Allan Murray architects, Edinburgh St James will introduce nine high-quality intimate yet substantial public spaces all connected by routes and streets to encourage a sense of place.

One of the development's standout features, the 12-storey W Edinburgh hotel designed by architectural practice Jestico + Whiles, has also been carefully designed to evoke the spirit of the Capital. The winding bronze-coloured steel 'ribbon' facade has been likened to spirals of paper, a reference to the many printing presses which uses to pepper the surrounding area in past times.

Once finished, Edinburgh St James will feature 850,000 sq ft of retail and leisure space, including 85 new shops, more than 30 new restaurants, an Everyman Cinema, 152 apartments, the W Edinburgh, a 75-room Roomzzz Aparthotel and three new public squares.

The front of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Pic: Alexander Lande-Shutterstock

Among the first retailers to announce their opening inside the Edinburgh St James are Zara, Next, fashion store Bershka and clothing stores Pull&Bear and Stradivarius.

An Evening News investigation earlier this year revealed analysis by an industry expert suggesting 11 Princes Street stores were likely to be lured away to the St James development.

The team behind the scheme, which has employed more than 3,000 people so far through construction, have also vowed to make the site a community hub capable of hosting a range of festival events with the nine event spaces.

The retail and leisure element at Edinburgh St James is anticipated to be finished in October 2020, followed by the full scheme completion in 2021.

One of the public spaces inside Brookfield Place in Toronto, formerly known as BCE Place. Pic: InspiredByMaps-Shutterstock