The Restoration Plan

Panmure House was acquired by the Edinburgh Business School (the Graduate School of Business at Heriot-Watt University) in 2008 (see details here). The renovation and restoration of the building is handled by EK:JN architects and the plans were first publicly exhibited in July 2009 (see the details here).

These plans are currently awaiting the approval from the Edinburgh City Council. Public comments on this plan can be submitted here.

Anyone who has a chance to visit the building, would immediately notice how unwelcoming is the main entrance, how small are the hallways, how "awkward" is the floorplan. The main door is too narrow for a wheelchair, the only internal stairway (which is not original) is rather uncomfortable, and there is no space to fit an elevator. In short, it is a challenge to make the building to be accessible by the public, particularly for those with mobility difficulties.

This is why those of us who been inside the building and seen the architectural plans, applaud the architects. This is a bold and exciting plan to restore and redevelop this historic building. The proposed atrium is a clever way to address the current problems with access to the different levels of the building. In our opinion, its modernity is honest in making clear what is and what is not original. In that sense, it is much preferable to an alternative involving some form of pastiche. One can even say that this plan follows the same trend in which the much-lauded the Great Court in the British Museum was made.

The atrium traces the outline of the courtyard, and completes the L-shaped building in a rectangle. The glass allows one to appreciate the beauty of the original building, while offering a practical way to provide a modern-day access to the building. The atrium will contain the decidedly modern stairway, while the existing (but not original) stair will be replaced with a lift, with wheelchair access from the back of the building via the lower ground floor. While we find the plans for the library and the function room (the only two reasonably sized rooms in the building) to be impressive and grand, it is the atrium and its practicality that we find to be particularly attractive.