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Cowgate Film Studios

Part 1 Project 2010
Scott Porter
University of Strathclyde, UK
Based in the heart of Edinburgh, Cowgate Film Studios aim (as part of the undergraduate thesis) is to provide facilities for; amateur film enthusiasts and from individuals interested in the film making process to those pursuing a profession in animation, music videos, advertisements and more.

In order to accomplish the one word brief “Festival” the studios provide a location for the planning, directing, filming and editing of small productions to be shown in the 5 indoor/2 outdoor theatres during the Edinburgh Film Festival and partially throughout the non-festival period.

The existing site encloses two small low rise container buildings belonging to the National Library of Scotland and a converted church currently used as a homeless health clinic. The rest of the site consists of ancient stone walls from previous unidentified structures. Access to the site is possible through various narrow lanes from the north and south with the main entrance on the Cowgate itself. Overall the condition of the site is deprived, unattractive and uninviting. Part of the reason for choosing it was to revitalise this misused section of the old town.

The aim was to retain these historical features, incorporate them into the scheme and make improved use of the historical church on site. This was converted into the main film theatre and served primarily as staff accommodation on upper levels with the box office and retail areas on the ground floor.

In addition to the existing church, an extension was created in place of the library offices which connect the church to a factory-like production building. This was deliberately designed to include all the facilities over four levels to compete with the much taller and overwhelming existing library building. Facilities include film studios, theatres, a library, an animation studio, editing and directing studios as well as outdoor film theatres, which integrate the existing stone walls into the scheme.

An accommodation block linked to the studios was placed to the rear of the site, acting as a retaining wall to deal with the change in level, creating a decent space between the two for an exterior studio.

Scott Porter

This student's response to the undergraduate thesis project is an insightful analysis and understanding of the cultural context of Edinburgh, the Festival and ‘Performance in the City’. They skillfully combined a continually focused attitude to research and analysis of the brief to produce an exciting and inspiring building which deals with the performance and production of film in the city.

This student's reaction to a challenging site is a building that deals with an in depth and ‘quasi expert’ understanding of the individual requirements of the elements of the brief and their contribution to the urban setting whilst having a relentlessly clear vision for the Architecture and the project as a whole. Using a highly competent array of hand drawing, sketching, computer techniques, physical modeling, photography and graphic design skills, they were able to demonstrate an unrivalled competency and talent within the rest of the year.

The student produced a concise and contemporary response to a physically and culturally complex site and programme. They continually embraced and expanded their spatial understanding at both an urban and detailed level which was consistently beyond the aspirations envisaged by the tutor team.

They are exceptionally talented, decisive and a highly creative student. They completed the year with a distinctive approach, a passion for production and a clarity of thought which is unmatched in recent times at the School.


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