Capital design team gets to root of Botanics revamp

An artist's impression of the gardens' north-east corner redevelopment
An artist's impression of the gardens' north-east corner redevelopment
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A DESIGN team entirely from the Capital has been named to oversee a flagship redevelopment at the Royal Botanic 

The £40 million revamp will see major works carried out in the north-east corner, including the construction of a Scottish School of Botany & Horticulture, the creation of new public space and the improvement of research facilities.

Overseeing the revamp will be Edinburgh-based architect Smith Scott Mullan Associates, quantity surveyor EC Harris, structural engineer Harley Haddow and mechanical-electrical firm McLean Engineering Partnership.

The announcement of a design team comes after the Botanics secured a £1.5m Scottish Government funding boost.

Professor Stephen Blackmore, regius keeper for the Botanics, said: “We are pleased to have the team on board that will help us to realise our long-term goals.

“It’s incredibly important to us that they are from Edinburgh, as they understand the depth of feeling that exists throughout the city for the Botanics.

“Although the projects we will start with are smaller, essential works, they all feed into the ambitious plans we have for the north-east quarter.”

As well as the opening of a new Scottish School of Botanics & Horticulture, the revamp will see several ageing glasshouses dating back to 1834 transformed, along with the replacement of existing research centres built in the 1960s and 70s.

Public access to research carried out at the Botanics will be increased through changes to the glasshouses, with design work supported by expert Dr Martin Emmett.

Bosses at Smith Scott 
Mullan, the firm that designed the garden’s East Gate café and which is currently working on the construction of a new Alpine House, said they welcomed the opportunity to help boost its research and increase its appeal to the public.

Company director Alistair Scott said: “This is a unique project to be involved with. It offers the opportunity to provide contemporary facilities for the support and academic work of the garden while providing it with a public face through integrating it with the historic glasshouses.”

The north-east corner is famous for its Victorian Temperate Palm House – the tallest of its kind in Britain – which leads visitors to Windows on the World, an attraction offering the opportunity to explore ten climatic zones holding one per cent of all known flowering plants, cycads and ferns.

These range from economically important species – including banana and rubber – to the world’s largest collection of tender vireya rhododendron.