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Edinburgh's Architectural Hidden Gems

24 June 2016

Edinburgh is recognised around the world for its beautiful architecture, from the medieval characteristics of the Old Town to the classical Georgian New Town and more recent developments like the Quartermile and New Waverly Arches. To celebrate Scotland's Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016, we asked Edinburgh architect Grant Bulloch to shine a light on some the city's Architectural Hidden Gems.

Take a look at a Grant’s picks then go out and discover them for yourself.

Circus Lane

Circus Lane Grant 500

[Image Credit: Grant Bulloch - Instagram @grantbullocharch]

Follow any Edinburgh based Instagram account and you will almost certainly see this narrow lane featured at some point. Hidden at the far edge of the New Town, it contains the old coach houses which once served the more prestigious streets on either side, but this mews lane has taken on its own character and now boasts expensive but picturesque houses and offices and is well worth a wander when the flowers are in bloom. You certainly won’t find many other tourists

Scotsman Steps

Steps1 Pete 500

[Image Credit: Pete Wands - Instagram @petewands]

The Scotsman Steps link the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, and as part of a restoration project in 2011, the nearby Fruitmarket Gallery commissioned artist Martin Creed to make a public work of art which takes the form of a marble staircase. Composed of 104 different marbles from all over the world, each step and landing is a different colour. Creed described the work as a microcosm of the whole world – stepping on the different marble steps is like “walking through the world”.

Chapel of Saint Albert the Great

St Albert Exterior Grant 500

[Image Credit - Lawrence Lew]

Built for the University Chaplaincy and Friary for The Order of Preachers, the Dominican Order, this gem was designed by architects Simpson & Brown and completed in 2012. This new chapel is situated in the garden of one of the original townhouses on the west side of George Square and has won numerous awards for architecture. Through the clever use of glazing and mirrors, the building is celebrated for its calm atmosphere and inspired use of natural light.

The Botanic Cottage

Botanic Cottage Grant 500

In 1763 John Hope, the King's Botanist for Scotland, realised his ambition to establish a new botanic garden in Leith Walk. A small house was built there, which in 1852 was called the 'Botanic Cottage'. Remarkably, this historic building survived and when finally threated with demolition, it was carefully dismantled and re-built stone by stone on the present site at the Royal Botanic Garden at Inverleith to provide a new education and community hub. It opened in 2016 and you can now go and visit it, as well as the fantastic eco-friendly John Hope Gateway visitor centre or one of the 28 Glass Houses which date back to 1832. The gardens are pretty special too!

Edinburgh’s Wild West

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[Image Credit: Andrew Bulloch - Instagram @hcollub]

Hidden deep within Edinburgh’s prim Morningside the city’s own part of the Wild West. It was originally built in 1995 as for a furniture business, but there were a number of units let to ceramists and artists.  The lane is now accepted as part of Edinburgh’s eccentric nature but only a few workshops and garages use the buildings today. You can still visit it to take pictures and see it for yourself but many residents of Edinburgh aren’t even aware that this quirky street exists.

National Portrait Gallery

Portrait Gallery Ashleyroy 500

[Image Credit: Ashley Roy - Instagram @ashleyarr]

If you visit the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh’s Queen Street then remember to look up! Most visitors come to look at the paintings which adorn the gallery, but often fail to notice this beautiful ceiling above the Great Hall which maps the night sky with 2,222 stars and signs of the zodiac. It’s well worth a visit to see this work of art alone. The building was designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson as a shrine for Scotland’s heroes and heroines and opened to the public in 1889 as the world’s first purpose-built portrait gallery. If you visit this summer you can also see a special exhibition for the Festival of Architecture - twelve portraits of some of Scotland’s greatest architects and recreations of their most iconic designs.

Scottish Storytelling Centre

Storytelling2 Grant 500

[Image Credit: Grant Bulloch - Instagram @grantbullocharch]

Halfway down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile lies the famous John Knox House, visited by thousands of tourists every year. Attached to it is the less well known Scottish Storytelling Centre, the world's first purpose built modern centre for live storytelling. Designed by Malcolm Fraser Architects, it opened in 2006 and as well as having a great wee café it nearly always has an exhibition or event happening. A beautiful space in itself, with light streaming in from above and a views down to the peaceful Sandeman House Garden below, it is well worth a visit.

The Tudor House

Randolph Grant 500

[Image Credit: Grant Bulloch - Instagram @grantbullocharch]

Edinburgh’s New Town is a stunning example of Georgian architecture and its neat and ordered streets were conceived as a single unified design to contrast with the rambling Old Town. However as it grew and extended outwards, there are occasional peculiar examples of buildings which broke all the rules. Tucked away on Randolph Place, a mock Elizabethan style half-timbered building stands out from the crowd. Built around 1900, it has an amazing mixture of turrets, leaded windows, red roof tiles and a huge weathervane at the corner – a total contrast to the elegance and ordered architecture which surrounds it on all sides. The lovely little restaurant it now houses is also worth a visit if you want to dine in a building of unusual character!

Grant Bulloch is an architect with his own practice and has been based in Edinburgh for the last 17 years. A fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland he is active within the architectural community and is a keen photographer, contributing to publications and exhibitions in the 2016 Festival of Architecture. You can find him on Instagram as @grantbullocharch and on Facebook as /GrantBullochArchitect and /grantbullochphotography/