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15, 15b and 15c Dalkeith Road, Scottish Widows Fund and Life Assurance Society Head Office, Including Landscaping, Moat and Boundary Walls

A Category A Listed Building in Edinburgh, Edinburgh

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.9403 / 55°56'25"N

Longitude: -3.1743 / 3°10'27"W

OS Eastings: 326745

OS Northings: 672537

OS Grid: NT267725

Mapcode National: GBR 8SL.H2

Mapcode Global: WH6SM.6YPH

Entry Name: 15, 15b and 15c Dalkeith Road, Scottish Widows Fund and Life Assurance Society Head Office, Including Landscaping, Moat and Boundary Walls

Listing Date: 3 March 2006

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 398167

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB50213

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Edinburgh

County: Edinburgh

Electoral Ward: Southside/Newington

Traditional County: Midlothian

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Description

Sir Basil Spence, Glover & Ferguson, 1972-76 (John Hardie Glover and John Legge, partners-in-charge charge; Norman Arthur, project architect; Dame Sylvia Crowe, landscape architect; structural engineers, Ove Arup & Partners). Office building in modern Expressionist style comprising series of interlocking hexagonal prisms varying in height from 1 to 4 storeys. Reinforced concrete construction. Series of recessed and projecting elevations and continuous curtain wall of brown solar glass in metal-frames. Pilotis partially support the block to SW with bridge access to principal (W) and rear entrances. The entrance, on W and to staff restaurant to E of steel-framed clear glass. Car parking spaces under pilotis on lower ground to the S and double height car park concealed beneath landscape terraces and sunken garden area to E. The basement service area to the N has metal shutters.

Double-skinned glazing, with brown solar glass to exterior and venetian blinds in the cavity. Mullions of manganese bronze, base courses of riven York stone, and pilotis of exposed concrete. Shallow pitched roofs covered in zinc.

INTERIOR: primarily open-plan office accommodation arranged around 2 hexagonal service cores containing lifts, stairs, lavatories and individual offices. In sub-basement plant, goods yard and double-height split-level staff restaurant, with feature ceiling of hexagonal prisms. Basement accommodates car parking, storage, coffee lounge and kitchens. Front service core contains entrance hall and has revolving door of glass and steel. Floors of entrance hall and lift halls are paved in stone and walls of staircase clad in riven York stone. Balustrades and handrails are of steel.

LANDSCAPING: extensive planting of trees, shrubs and lawns to N and S featuring decorative rocks and boulders. Sunken gardens and ascending terraces to E concealing car park building with rocks and plants.

MOAT: surrounding building to S and W. Lined with large pebbles, a feature repeated in the interior.

BOUNDARY WALL: battered, riven stone boundary wall to W and S with triangular coping. N boundary contained by metal fence.

Statement of Interest

A major achievement of international status for Sir Basil Spence, Glover and Ferguson, its importance acknowledged in the professional press and recognised in 1977 when the building received the RIBA Award for Scotland. This building is an expressionistic response to Salisbury Crags married to a Functionalist programme. Geological analogies in the allusions to geometric structure of crystals inform plan, structural grid and massing. Height restrictions and consideration of views both to and from the hills and cliffs of the Royal Park necessitated a thoughtful treatment. Thus a careful use of high quality materials, concealed car park, and extensive planting and landscaping, for which the practice brought in Dame Sylvia Crowe, the leading landscape architect of the period. The office space was described as 'landscaped', with plants and stones chosen to complement those of the gardens. The depth of the floors demanded maximum fenestration, and solar glass was required to protect the inhabitants from heat and glare.

The building stands partly in a pool, on the W and S sides, designed to reflect the elevations. This device was used in some of Spence's keynote buildings, most notably at the University of Sussex and the British Embassy in Rome. The reception area and stairs are also enlivened by a play on the reflective qualities of water and mirrored surfaces.

The interiors have undergone a few changes, mainly to the individual office spaces. Most of the ceilings have been replaced and the floors of the main spaces raised to accommodate cabling. The open-plan offices originally relied upon screens and filing cabinets finished in light oak, with furniture to match for flexible division of work-space. Most of these have now been replaced. The building is nevertheless almost completely intact. In the service cores, wall finishings, flooring and doors are mostly original, as is the curved desk in the reception area (June 2004).

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