ESH Border Construction has been named the main contractor for the restoration of Edinburgh’s historic City Observatory.
The Livingston-based firm will oversee a £3 million second phase of redevelopment work at the Calton Hill site, which will include opening up the 19th century “birthplace of astronomy and timekeeping in Edinburgh” for public use and upgrading it with a new restaurant and gallery space.
The project, which aims to create a world-class hub for contemporary visual arts as well as significant new work by local and international practitioners, will last approximately 11 months.
The new restaurant will be built in the north-east corner of the property and will have stunning panoramic views thanks to a large amount of westward-facing glazing. It will also be illuminated at night, making it a landmark attraction visible from all over the capital.
Meanwhile, the modern gallery will provide a subterranean space for artists, audiences, and producers, with astronomical instruments and telescopes on display, while the site’s grounds will be meticulously restored.
The revitalised observatory complex – featuring a classical Greek-style design masterminded by William Henry Playfair in 1818 – will be fully accessible to the public for the first time, breathing new life into what had become an underutilised site.
It is hoped that the project, which was commissioned by a collaboration of Edinburgh City Council and visual arts organisation Collective, will encourage new engagement with and creation of the arts.
“We are delighted to be part of this landmark project that we are certain will inject new life into a hugely important site in the heart of Edinburgh,” said Simon Phillips, regional managing director for Scotland.
“Historically, Calton Hill was a place for stargazing, but it will now house one of the finest visual arts spaces in the country as part of a multi-faceted attraction open to the public.”
“It will encourage creative interaction while still emphasising the site’s astronomical origins, not to mention showcasing fantastic views over Edinburgh to the Forth Bridges.”
“We believe that is a critical project for the city, its residents, and its many visitors, contributing to the enhancement of the Edinburgh experience.”
“It’s also exactly the type of project Esh Border Construction wants to work on, and we can’t wait to get started on the road to bringing the revamped Calton Hill Observatory site to fruition.”
“This is a really exciting project for us to be involved in, representing a diverse challenge that I am sure we will relish,” said Euan McDermott, business development manager for Esh Border Construction in Scotland.
“There is a strong emphasis here on economic and regeneration objectives, which aligns with Esh Border’s ongoing emphasis on adding value to the communities in which we operate.”
“Furthermore, we have been energised by the enthusiasm that Edinburgh City Council and Collective have shown in bringing the project to its current stage.” We hope to keep up the momentum, assisting them in realising their cultural goals.
“We have no doubt that the site will excel as an inspiring place of creativity and learning for residents and visitors alike, while also celebrating and preserving Scotland’s rich astronomical heritage, and we are very proud to be a part of it,” says the site’s director.