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New theatre for Edinburgh - the city's first purpose-built perfomance venue in over 100 years

CGI by Hayes Davidson of the Dunard Centre in Edinburgh's New Town (David Chipperfield Architects London and Reiach and Hall Architects)

As Covid-19 continues to put a strain on the entertainment industries, Future Cities Forum will hold its first 'Cultural Cities' forum of 2022 this month, looking at new projects for towns and cities that will help to revive live performance and restore the fortunes of the high street.

This week we are featuring the new theatre being built in Edinburgh's New Town, designed by David Chipperfield Architects London in collaboration with Reiach and Hall Architects for client IMPACT Scotland. The City of Edinburgh Council has granted planning permission for a 1000-seat performance venue within the UNESCO World Heritage site of Edinburgh's New Town, with a proposed completion date of 2025. The Dunard Centre will be the city's first purpose-built music and performance venue in over 100 years.

Embedded in the dense area of Registry Lanes and also on the grand civic axis with Dundas House, the building creates a series of rich, continuous, high-quality and accessible public spaces that connect the previously fractured surroundings. The project is described by the architects as a 'respectful new addition to its historic context that will revive the complex site and provide a new cultural destination of both local and international significance.'

Edinburgh is a city with a rich cultural heritage that plays host to the world's largest performing arts festival every year. The Dunard Centre is intended to address the long-identified need for a purpose-built, medium-sized performance venue in the city, serving as an Edinburgh base for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and providing a new space for a range of musical performances - both acoustic and amplified - as well as events.

The venue will contain as well as the auditorium, a cafe, bar and multifunctional spaces for a variety of events as well as an educational outreach programme. Upon completion it will be Edinburgh's first dedicated new space for music and the performing arts in 100 years. It is located behind, and connected to, the Grade-A listed Dundas House (1771) on St Andrew's Square which can serve as a formal entrance for special events. On an urban level the project seeks to provide a fitting terminus at the end of George Street, the New Town's principal axis, in a position where a grand public building was originally intended to be built. The venue connects the surrounding district neighbourhoods through several approach routes and entrances, as well as a newly landscaped public realm.

The facades of the new venue relate to the architecture of the New Town in both their order and materiality. The expression of the base, middle and top, found on other neoclassical buildings, is picked up by the composition of the venue's massing while the texture and tone of its concrete references the various sandstones found in the New Town. The character of the public realm is set by the architecture of the building and borrows from the scenography of the context creating a series of varied, interconnected spaces between the venue and its different approaches.

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