The facilities in the National Gallery of Scotland on the Mound in Edinburgh are generally excellent but the quality of the 1970s New Wing housing the Scottish Collection itself have not dated well and are in urgent need of rejuvenation. There is also a pressing need for increased office accommodation on the site and a general reworking and enhancement of entrance and circulation spaces in the Weston Link beneath the Gallery plaza is also considered desirable by the Client.
As part of a consortium led by the much-missed Malcolm Fraser Architects, AED were awarded the engineering commission associated with the feasibility study stage of the project.
The proposals developed by AED featured bold interventions, including:
- Opening up of the south east stairwell from its current cramped proportions to the full extent of the original gallery walls. This was achieved by multi-level underpinning of the existing walls, progressing down two-and-a-half storeys into the fill beneath the building.
- Further underpinning work was proposed to original 1850s structure and the 1970s addition to enable the raised rear deck of the Scottish Collection to be lowered, creating a larger unified exhibition space.
- An enlarged, lower access tunnel was proposed to join the two spaces
- The current compressed and prohibitive access route to the rear stair from the main galleries was highlighted as being significantly enlarged to create a grand processional route through the main galleries and down into the enhanced volume of the Scottish Collection.
- Access to the Galleries as a whole was to be improved by the insertion of an entrance pavilion between the RSA and the National Gallery and the foyer of the Weston Link below this
The adjacent Weston Link areas was to receive significant remodeling to improve access, visibility and pedestrian traffic flow.
- The final, dramatic intervention was to insert a two storey office block partly buried in the grassed slope to the south of the Gallery below the Old Town, backed by a significant anchored retaining wall, for which AED carried out preliminary structural assessment.
The design work carried out was required to take cognisance of the three shallow railway tunnels which run a few metres below the floor slab of the New Wing and original Gallery, and the extremely dubious ground conditions prevalent in and below the Mound itself, consisting of poorly consolidated variable fill on top of alluvial silts and clays.