Investment to breathe new life into historic university landmark

ONE of Edinburgh University’s landmark – but far from beautiful – buildings is set for a £12 million overhaul, it was revealed today.

By David O’Leary
Friday, 27th April 2012, 1:13 pm

The 1960s William Robertson building at 50 George Square is to be completely refurbished, with a new glazed storey added at roof level, offering views out to the Meadows and Salisbury Crags.

Balfour Beatty has been awarded the contract to build a new project room above the existing lecture theatre.

The four-storey B-listed building, which currently has single-glazed windows and a leaky roof, will also be fully insulated with energy efficient materials.

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New hard and soft landscaping around the building will also be installed.

In recent years the property has served as a Fringe venue in the new hub in George Square Gardens, hosting a wide range of comedy, drama and dance.

Once completed in spring 2014 the B-listed building will become a permanent home to the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures.

At present the school’s students are spread across 17 different buildings throughout the city.

The new building will also be made available to host Fringe acts once more.

Tim Clarke, managing director of Balfour Beatty Construction in Scotland, said: “This project is the 22nd undertaken by Balfour Beatty for the university and further enhances a proactive working relationship that goes back many years and follows on from the highly successful new Royal Veterinary School that went operational last year.

“We will create generous arrival, welcome and circulation spaces alongside improved lecture theatres and teaching spaces.

“The present building is very energy hungry. The new environment will be far more efficient in that aspect and operate on principles of sustainable construction.

“Refurbishing traditional buildings and bringing them into a more energy efficient attractive environment is something that particularly suits our skill set and we see it as an opportunity for further expansion.”

Edinburgh University project manager John Hart said: “This £12m investment in the William Robertson building will mean that this important structure is properly equipped to offer students the best possible environment in which to learn.

“Sustainable development is very important for the University of Edinburgh and by upgrading and extending this building, we are ensuring the William Robertson building will have world-class facilities in the 21st century.”


The building was named after historian William Robertson (1721–1793), who became Royal Chaplain to King George III and was principal of the University of Edinburgh.

A B-listed example of 1960s architecture, it is not perhaps the most loved building in the university’s portfolio. It has served as a lecture theatre, conference centre, research rooms and, most recently, a major Fringe venue. It was opened on March 1, 1968, by the Chancellor of the Edinburgh University, HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.