GREETED with such a spectacle of devastation, stunned passers-by could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into the set of Godzilla.
But what may look like a scene from a disaster movie is in fact the early stages of a demolition job to pull down a 1950s office block in St Andrew Square.
The former Scottish Provident building will be razed to the ground and replaced with a £75 million shopping mall crowned with offices and apartments.
But onlookers today marvelled at the semi-collapsed brickwork, with one later tweeting: “Was Godzilla in Edinburgh today?”
Jenners worker Robin Cook, 62, who admired the demolition work from the fifth floor of the famous department store, scotched rumours of a marauding monster insisting the assailant was mechanical.
And he lamented the loss of the 60-year-old office block. “I think it’s a sin a lovely building like that coming down,” he said. “It’s a disgrace.”
Mother and daughter, Jennifer and Sally McNally, craned to stare at the gaping hole in the city centre landscape.
Sally said: “It looks like it has been bombed. You would think that you were looking at a war zone in the Middle East.”
It is understood bulldozers have been operating in the early hours of the morning to reduce disruption and noise for surrounding businesses.
The former headquarters of Scottish Provident was bought by Peveril Securities in March 2012 for £20m and the redevelopment work is due to be completed by 2016. It was the original site for one of the first houses to be built in the New Town and was occupied by a prominent Scottish thinker.
Historians are hoping to unearth feted philosopher David Hume’s 200-year-old wine cellar from the rubble of the demolition.
Conservation group The Cockburn Association had opposed demolition but is now pressing to ensure the new development sits with the character of the area.
Director Marion Williams said: “We recognise the importance of the site and we are hoping we can work together to get the right answer but it is very disappointing to see what is a very special listed building of its time demolished.”
Blueprints for the proposed new building have previously been described by architectural consultant David Black as “about the worst example of ego-architecture ever proposed for the New Town”.