In 2016 the Royal High School Preservation Trust (RHSPT) received planning consent to convert the Old Royal High School into a new home for St Mary’s Music School to reinforce its status as Scotland’s national school of music.
As part of the consenting process, OPEN was commissioned by the Royal High School Preservation Trust (RHSPT) in 2015 to undertake the Townscape and Visual Assessment (TVIA) of the EIA for the proposed redevelopment of the Former Royal High School site in the centre of Edinburgh.
The approach to the TVIA required an understanding of the inherent sensitivities of the site and context. The principal feature of the Former Royal High School is the Hamilton Building, a Grade A listed historic building, which occupies a prominent location on the southern slopes of Calton Hill. The site lies within the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site and the New Town Conservation Area and Calton Hill is noted as an important feature of the Edinburgh skyline in key views identified in the City of Edinburgh Council’s Skyline Report.
The RHSPT proposal would be to redevelop the site to create a new building and grounds for St. Mary’s Music School. This would involve the demolition of the ancillary buildings within the larger site and the construction of a new low lying building, situated behind and to the north eastern side of the Hamilton Building. The proposal would also include the creation of a new open space to the west of the Hamilton Building and green roof space to the east, as playground for the children, as well as to enhance the setting of the buildings.
OPEN prepared a TVIA to assess the potential effects of the proposed development, and found that the proposal would result in few significant effects. This was due mainly to the comparatively low elevation of the proposed new building, its recessed location in respect of the Hamilton Building, the screening effect of mature tree cover along the south east of the site, and, the retention of existing features, such as retaining walls and iron railings, which would help to create a sense of continuity. Visualisations produced by OPEN formed an important component of the TVIA, with photomontages of the architectural model used to present an accurate representation of the potential visual effects.