Edinburgh Architects Blend The Old With The New
Edinburgh has a unique landscape. For centuries planners and architects have used the natural topography of the city to their advantage. The post-volcanic ridge running from the castle to the Canongate provides the spine for the herringbone array of closes and wynds, while the contrasting flatness of the land to the north gave us the perfect foundation for Craig’s grand plan for the New Town. The result is that we now have two UNESCO World Heritage Sites side by side. It may be a historic wonder, but it’s not a museum; Edinburgh is a living, breathing city – home to almost 500,000 people. It’s important therefore, when considering architecture and design, that we continue to adapt to modern living while being sympathetic to the past – a balancing act that’s not for the faint-hearted. But, fortune favours the brave as they say and in our next few blogs Mackenzie Hughes would like to recognise the outstanding work from Edinburgh architects who successfully blend the old with the new and achieve stunning results.
St James Church Hall Property Development, Portobello
The first of these is the St James’s church hall development at Portobello by multi-award winning architect Sonia Browse. The project not only recognises the area’s conservation status but uses it as a prime feature for the benefit of the people who will not only live in the newly built homes, but for others in the community too
Ambitious two-phase development
In 2015 the Church of Scotland decided to sell two of its local churches in Portobello. One of these sites – Grade B listed St James’s church was bought by property developer Pete Turner and so began the process of securing planning permission for a two-phase development. The first phase – to build three mews townhouses on the site where the church hall stood and the second – the conversion of the church itself into four separate houses. Local architect Sonia Browse was commissioned to design the development and in a couple of months phase one will be complete.
Pete Turner said, “From the start we intended this to be a development that enhanced and preserved the style of the area, while being sympathetic to the existing listed church building. The positive feedback we received from our consultation with Edinburgh Council, the church committee and residents’ associations throughout the pre-planning phase affirmed our purpose and design objectives and furthered our confidence that we would achieve planning permission for the site.”
Phase one – Three mews townhouses
The design of the mews houses is inspired by the ‘linked villa’ style typical of the late-Georgian properties in the nearby Brighton and Rosefield area. The garage of each property is set back from the street, joining houses together in a similar way to the single-story wings which link the properties in the neighbouring streets. Elements of the design borrow from the Gothic ‘perpendicular style’ of the church itself.
Despite being a modest two-storey size, the houses have a vertical emphasis created by separating and modelling the two planes of the front elevation, which draws the eye up to the sky, echoing the soaring arches and gable profiles of the Church. This is further emphasised by the tall windows which give the illusion of being double height.
Each townhouse features light-filled open-plan living spaces with under-floor heating and wood-burning stoves. Large bi-fold doors on the ground floor lead to the south-east facing private gardens at the rear.
Each property has four generously-sized double bedrooms with exposed trusses – two of which have large clearstory glazing, whilst the other two bedrooms lead to an upper terrace. A large window from the terrace draws light down the stair in the centre of the plan.
The outside space meets the Scottish Government recommendations on making ‘streets as places first’. Designed as a quiet mews with no access to through traffic, the common area in front of the houses will provide a social, community space and place for children to play.
The sustainable house designs have been arranged to maximise daylight and passive heat gains while the design of the triple aspect homes allows cross ventilation and good levels of natural ventilation through the home. The homes will be of a timber kit and fabric construction with good airtightness levels complemented by a mechanical heat recovery ventilation system (MHRV).
Phase Two – Church conversion to four homes
The conversion of the church itself is an ambitious project to create four separate houses within the original structure.
The unique features of each section of the church such as the narthex, nave and chancel along with the barrel-vaulted ceiling will be integrated to blend the old with the new. Browse the drawings below or click here to view the full design and access statement for the St James Church Hall project. For more details on this and other projects email Sonia Browse Architects on email@example.com or call 0131 258 4653.