This month (January 2019) will bring the latest steps in the major redevelopment of the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, with work now commencing in East Princes Street Gardens and continuing inside the Galleries. The vision for the project, which got underway in October 2018, has been revealed in a new fly through animation released to coincide with this stage of work, which you can watch below.
Changes occurring from now until spring 2019:
• Work will get underway to create a new accessible path, new landscaping and wider steps in East Princes Street Gardens.
• Gardens entrance to the Scottish National Gallery is now temporarily closed until spring 2019.
• The Scottish Cafe & Restaurant and main Gallery shop are now temporarily closed until spring 2019.
• Galleries to officially join the City of Edinburgh Council’s community toilet scheme as an accessible toilet on the Mound precinct will be removed.
These changes are part of the National Galleries of Scotland’s £22m project which will create a new home for the world’s greatest collection of Scottish art and see former office, storage and display spaces completely transformed so that visitors can, for the first time, enter the gallery directly from the adjacent East Princes Street Gardens. The new space will showcase the National Galleries of Scotland’s amazingly rich collection of historic Scottish art, which contains masterpieces by Henry Raeburn, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Scottish Colourists, as well as giving visitors direct access to the rest of the Scottish National Gallery’s international collection. The project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Scottish Government.
Speaking about the project, Sir John Leighton, Director-General of the National Galleries of Scotland, said: “It has been very exciting over the autumn to see work on this transformational project get started, and as we move out of winter and into spring we’re looking forward to some of our first milestones becoming a reality.
"Landscaping will start shortly and by the spring our new accessible route into Princes Street Gardens will be complete and our restaurant and enlarged shop will reopen to welcome the public.
"Unavoidably there will be some disruption around the site over the coming weeks, and we are grateful for the public’s patience while we create these improvements to the galleries and the surrounding space.
"We want the Scottish National Gallery to be a place for everyone to enjoy. We have two years to go before opening, but we hope that as this year progresses people will already begin to feel the great benefits of the work we are doing here.”
As part of the work in this phase of the development, which is due to last until spring 2019, public access in and around East Princes Street Gardens and the Mound precinct will change.
During this period the Gardens entrance to the Scottish National Gallery will be closed; visitors will instead use the entrances on The Mound. From mid-January, work starts on the new landscaping which includes the widening of existing steps and the construction of a new accessible path in the Gardens, which will help those with mobility impairments, wheelchairs and prams.
The Galleries’ plans, which were approved after a lengthy consultation with City of Edinburgh Council and other bodies, address the long-standing inadequacy of accessible routes in this area; without this new path, the East Gardens would remain accessible only via steep gradients or stairs.
As part of the works an accessible toilet on the Mound precinct will be removed, and the National Galleries of Scotland will join the City of Edinburgh Council’s community toilet scheme. Our nearby accessible toilet facilities are open to the public without having to visit the Gallery itself.
During this phase of work we will also be planting 22 new trees in East Princes Street Gardens with species chosen to complement existing trees in the wider gardens. These trees will be between 4.5 metres and 6 metres in height. They will replace 52 trees removed in autumn 2018 to enable the reshaping of an embankment that is necessary for the new accessible path. The new trees are depicted in the new animated fly through, and landscape architects and other professional organisations supporting the project have advised and verified on their depiction, including their size and species.
National Galleries of Scotland is also in discussion with the City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust about the planting of additional trees in other locations in the city.
The main Gallery shop and The Scottish Café & Restaurant will also temporarily close until spring 2019. Alternative facilities – including a souvenir shop inside the Gallery and the shop on Princes Street will be available as normal - as well as a new Espresso café opening at the Scottish National Gallery entrance on the Mound in early 2019.
Also due to start in this phase is the installation of a much larger lift and stairwell at the south end of the Scottish National Gallery, which will connect with the new gallery spaces and radically improve the way the whole building is accessed by visitors. While construction work continues on the stairwell, there will be some temporary disruption with no lift access to some rooms where we show 18th, 19th and early 20th Century Art, including Scottish Art, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.