Unbuilt Edinburgh: The Capital landmarks that never were

They would have dramatically altered the skyline of Scotland's capital as we know it - but never got off the ground.

Friday, 6th May 2016, 5:19 pm
Updated Friday, 6th May 2016, 6:27 pm
Sean Connery's grand plans for a new filmhouse in 2004 remain unbuilt to this day. Picture: Richard Murphy Architects
Sean Connery's grand plans for a new filmhouse in 2004 remain unbuilt to this day. Picture: Richard Murphy Architects

Now the lid has been lifted on 250 years’ worth of ditched designs, rejected visions and unsuccessful competition entries which could have shaped the “Athens of the North” entirely differently.

Plans for the monuments, memorials and new buildings which were left on the drawing board or scuppered after a public outcry have been brought together for the first time for a new exhibition.

They include a new tower for Edinburgh Castle - designed by architect David Bryce - which was intended as a memorial keep to commemorate the death of Prince Albert in 1861.

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The Prince Albert Memorial Keep would have been added to Edinburgh as a mark of respect for the royal. Picture: Historic Environment Scotland/RIAS Collection

Frank Charles Mears envisaged a “Sacred Way” which would have seen a series of new monuments and memorials created in the shadow of the castle to honour those who fell the First World War.

Little-seen alternative designs for the Scott Monument, the Forth Bridge, the Usher Hall, the St James shopping centre and Murrayfield Ice Rink are all featured in the Unbuilt Edinburgh exhibition.

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The show, created for a nationwide Festival of Architecture, features some of the city’s most controversial modern developments, including the Scottish Parliament.

The planned Scottish National War Memorial to be built in 1919. Picture: Historic Environment Scotland/RIAS Collection

A new Sir Sean Connery-backed Filmhouse cinema, designed by architect Richard Murphy, was earmarked for Festival Square, but were opposed by the city council and the Sheraton Hotel, while an underground shopping in Princes Street Gardens was shelved due to the level of opposition.

The Edinburgh Architectural Association and Historic Environment Scotland are behind the exhibition, which is on show at the offices of Architecture and Design Scotland, off the Royal Mile, until 20 May.

Co-curator Neil Gregory, architecture and industry operational manager at HES, said: “Unbuilt Edinburgh offers visitors a tantalising view of what the capital could have looked like had different decisions been taken.

“These drawings help us make sense of the cityscape we see today. They highlight key episodes in the history of some of its major landmarks and the careers of some of Scotland’s leading architects.”

Unsuccessful competition entry for Usher Hall

Architect Roderick Binns, the other co-curator, added: “This exhibition is a wonderful showcase of Scottish architectural talent, innovation and creativity over the last 250 years.

“It charts the wider developments in Edinburgh’s architectural landscape, design trends, influence and styles up until present day. It also helps demonstrate how design and architecture throughout this period has helped shape and inform the Edinburgh around us today.”

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Proposed design for St Georges Church, Shandwick Place
Unexecuted design for Murrayfield Ice Rink and Sports Stadium
The Prince Albert Memorial Keep would have been added to Edinburgh as a mark of respect for the royal. Picture: Historic Environment Scotland/RIAS Collection
The planned Scottish National War Memorial to be built in 1919. Picture: Historic Environment Scotland/RIAS Collection
Unsuccessful competition entry for Usher Hall
Proposed design for St Georges Church, Shandwick Place
Unexecuted design for Murrayfield Ice Rink and Sports Stadium