Esh Border Construction invites Women in Property to Calton Hill Observatory to see use of sustainable solutions to historic building conservation.

27th April 2017

The contractor delivering the transformation of the historic City Observatory site on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill has welcomed women from across the property scene to enjoy a sneak peak of the project. Esh Border Construction invited the Association of Women in Property (WiP) – including solicitors, architects, and planning and environmental consultants – to an exclusive tour of the site last week to coincide with World Heritage Day.

They saw significant progress made by the Livingston-based company on the £3million second phase of redevelopment work which commenced last year, ahead of a projected October completion date.

WiP later enjoyed a presentation at the nearby Apex Hotel where they learnt more about the project and its aims.
Esh Border Construction is working hard to open up the 19th century ‘birthplace of astronomy and timekeeping in Edinburgh’ for public use, while significantly enhancing it with a new restaurant and gallery space.

The project – to realise a world-class hub for contemporary visual arts and important new work by local and international practitioners – is being delivered for a partnership of City of Edinburgh Council and visual arts organisation Collective. The new restaurant will project over the north-east corner of the site, enjoying stunning panoramic views thanks to a substantial area of westward-facing glazing. It will also be illuminated at night, creating a landmark attraction that will be visible from all around the capital. The contemporary gallery will meanwhile provide a new space for artists, audiences and producers, with astronomical instruments and telescopes on display in the City Observatory, while the grounds of the site will also be carefully restored.

At the heart of the historically sympathetic conservation project, the revitalised observatory complex – featuring a classical Greek-style design that was masterminded by William Henry Playfair in 1818 – is to become fully accessible to the public for the first time, breathing new life into what had become an underutilised site.

Esh Border Construction says that it is excited by the wide cultural possibilities of its restoration and redevelopment work across the observatory site, and was proud to welcome WiP last week.

Hosting the WiP event was Esh Border Construction’s Assistant Estimator, Ashleigh Day, who said:

“We were delighted to have the opportunity of showing the group around the site, giving them a preview of the exciting development to come. The women enjoyed their sneak peak of this landmark project, one that we are certain will inject new life into a hugely important site in the centre of Edinburgh while fully showcasing its stunning views. WiP were able to see how the project will soon house one of the finest visual arts spaces in the country as part of a wide-ranging attraction that will be open to all, encouraging creative interaction. The group heard about the project’s massive emphasis on economic and regeneration objectives, going hand-in-hand with Esh Border’s ever-present focus on adding value in the communities where we operate. We very much look forward to welcoming them back to the much-anticipated opening event.”

Among the delegates from the Women in Property group visiting the project was Tanya MacLeod, partner at Brodies – which takes part annually in Esh’s Building My Skills initiative – who said:

“This is such an unusual and exciting project – it’s wonderful to see such an historic and iconic site being so painstakingly restored. It’s incredibly sad that these Playfair buildings have been on the Buildings at Risk Register for so long, so not only is this project long overdue, it’s also vital to celebrating the architectural brilliance of Edinburgh’s past.”

We always look for a diverse mix of projects to visit to keep up-to-date with the changing property landscape in Scotland. We don’t see too many like this, and we felt like we’d had a full blown history lesson! It was so great to see that such a landmark site in the capital is being returned to its former glory but with even more to offer the public. It was a hugely informative and interesting afternoon.

- Gemma Smith, Women in Property

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