Thursday, 1 November 2007

Man whose vision will dominate Edinburgh

Allan Murray’s work is not yet cherished like some of his illustrious predecessors in Edinburgh, but soon it will dominate some of the city’s most beautiful and famous streets.

Murray cut his teeth as an architect in America, returning to Scotland to establish a private practise in 1992. He has since put his stamp on a series of very visible and potentially controversial projects many within the area designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.

It is Murray’s vision which will raise a new hotel – The Bridge – high on the Royal Mile, on the site of the old Lothian Regional Council offices. And it is Murray, who, with his plans for the Cowgate Bridge site – cleared by fire in 2002 – will create “a vibrant new city district”.

He is also the lead architect on the £300 million Caltongate development that requires the demolition of two listed buildings. These proposals have outraged conservation groups and residents and the project has been referred back to planning.

His practice handles an extraordinary volume of work. His buildings dominate Leith Street and Greenside Place. His masterplan gave the city the plate-glass façade of the Omni Centre and he designed the adjacent Calton Square offices. Recently he was appointed to prepare designs for a new St James centre and has planning permission for offices on the site opposite. Between 2002 and 2004 he completed the Tun on Holyrood Road, the adjacent clock tower and the Cowgate Nursery.

The practice does not confine itself to the city centre. It has completed three corporate buildings on the Edinburgh Park estate, with a combined value of more than £25m, for New Edinburgh, a joint venture between the Miller Group and the city council. He is masterplanning the re-generation of a 32-hectare site in Fountainbridge and in Leith, Murray has designed phases one and two of Coalhill., for the developer Buredi.

With commendable chutzpah, he announced that the dome on the top of his South Bridge Building is inspired by the nearby Old College, designed by Robert Adam, Edinburgh’s great architect of the Enlightenment. Who knows, in 200 years, designers might be erecting plate glass walls in homage to Murray?

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