LETTERS: A fitting start to the Royal High School development

Artist's impressions of how the former Royal High School site could look under new plans. Picture: Contributed
Artist's impressions of how the former Royal High School site could look under new plans. Picture: Contributed
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The new designs for the proposed hotel within and around Thomas Hamilton’s former Royal High School, provide a lot to deliberate on and exhibit their own high degree of deliberation.

Any new vision for this magnificent building not only needs to ensure its stabilisation and restoration, but needs to be durable and capable of being sustained as a solid, long-term investment.

So many publicly-funded projects have achieved the former but could not sustain the latter. Regeneration of this quality is a long game.

In Edinburgh the landscape and geology of the city is ever-present. The Salisbury Crags, Calton Hill, the ancient volcano and lochan, the contrast with Fife, and the river as its northern backdrop.

The importance of the current proposals for the hotel is the recognition that the new buildings become part of that landscape transforming the geology of Calton Hill, itself remodelled to accommodate the Royal High School as part of Hamilton’s overall vision.

This major shift allows the High School the space and importance it deserves. It reinforces its unique architecture, an architecture which in the context of Enlightenment Edinburgh is not modest but never bombastic, using devices of scale and perspective to amplify its stature and impact as a metaphor for the city as a European intellectual and cultural centre.

The scale of these “geological” extensions rise towards their ends, most pronounced as the building ends across from the equally magnificent St Andrew’s House – its birth also impeded by 20 years of controversy at the time of the proposed replacement of the Old Calton Prison.

The absurdity is no better encapsulated than in Tom Curr’s cartoon of October 19, 1930 in the Edinburgh Evening News.

However, here the new hotel building is totally in scale with the Thomas Tait building. This height not only acts as a northern gate post to Regent Terrace, it also marks the entrance to Calton Hill and the hotel itself.

Looking at the almost natural amphitheatre created by Calton Hill and these new buildings, Hamilton’s buildings sit as the manifestation of the city in miniature.

However, it is important that Hamilton’s original is recognised for what it is – a remnant of a glorious past, unloved and forgotten by many but a major part of the fabric of Edinburgh.

Part of this revitalisation and regeneration is to recognise both the historic and the contemporary and avoid conflating them.

In embracing Thomas Hamilton’s original Royal High School the contemporary architecture proposed here has a hard task remaining low key and a lot to live up to in quality but the ingredients are right and a fitting start has been made.

Professor Gordon Murray University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

Salmond needs to spell out details on refugees

I watched Question Time last week and listened to Alex Salmond spout on about how we need to accept more immigrants/refugees, but, oh, how these people avoid the big question.

And that question is one they need to answer – where are they going to live?

If people like the former First Minister want to sound credible, surely his party should now compile transparent lists of available houses that are empty and ready for occupation, and by that l do not mean how many hotel rooms. Let us all see properly compiled and published lists of house numbers, street names etc, then we will be able to ask the other big question.

If houses do actually exist, why are there so many people spending years on Scottish housing lists; why are there so many indigenous homeless or is this another of those matters the SNP don’t like to mention? Looks very much like it.

Too often, people like Salmond say the “in thing” to score political points, but in the well-used phrase of Nicola Sturgeon a year ago, the people of Scotland are not buttoned up the back.

Colin Cookson, Stenton, Glenrothes

Colinton boundary changes no big deal

Mike Scott (News platform, September 21) is wrong in his presumption that all of Colinton is as worked up as he is about the proposed boundary changes.

I have lived in the heart of Colinton Village for more than a quarter-century and can assure him that this community, like any other, is defined by what the people living in it want it to be, and not by either municipal boundaries nor by random committees taking it upon themselves to speak on our behalf.

Colinton has rather a lot of these little coteries, which rarely seem to take much trouble to find out what the rest of us think.

Mr Scott calls the Water of Leith an “arbitrary” boundary. It would seem to me a more natural boundary than the location of ill-assorted artefacts lately erected by those eager to capitalise on the village’s connections with Stevenson.

Keith Aitken, Bridge Road, Edinburgh