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(Re)Making the City: Picardy Arts Centre

Part 1 Project 2010
Nicholas Kehagias
University of Edinburgh Edinburgh UK
Located at the eastern edge of Edinburgh’s vibrant New Town, the Picardy Place roundabout is a confusing and chaotic vehicular junction. Its current layout owes more to outdated traffic planning strategies than to any coherent consideration of its important location and urban potential.

A new masterplan promises to reinvigorate the tired St. James’ Centre adjacent to the site, providing a stimulus for the redevelopment of the roundabout itself. This project begins with a rearrangement of traffic flow on the site, creating an important connection between the St. James’ and Picardy Place developments, while suggesting a design that can serve as a focal point for the eastern edge of New Town.

The project proposes a new arts centre to provide long overdue facilities for the city’s burgeoning art scene, supported by income generated from rentable retail and office units. The centre is also designed to act as an urban gesture; a means of bringing together the disparate strands of urban fabric that converge on the site, and to create an iconic gateway to the city centre for visitors arriving from the east.

The design developed around the notion of creating a series of spaces suited to the full range of the contemporary artistic process. Studios featuring opaque and transparent glass panels are embedded in a stepped landscape, giving artists the opportunity to involve the public in their creative process if desired. The studios provide flexible, naturally-lit spaces sheltered from the noise of the city by the timber and granite-clad forms of the galleries, and create a strong visual identity for the centre. The modular studios are a suitable model for further adaptation and expansion beyond the site boundaries.

The development of Picardy Place has the potential to draw some of Edinburgh’s tremendous energy eastwards, towards an important but currently neglected part of the city. This project aims to provide a relevant and viable alternative to the glut of hotel and retail-based proposals currently being examined by planners, and to contribute an original and exciting addition to the city’s artistic landscape.

Nicholas Kehagias

This Senior Honours unit investigates the potential impact of a major infrastructure project, namely Edinburgh’s new tram network. Although responsive to the complexities of working within the strictures of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site, Nick is not afraid to confound expectations. He is thoughtful in his approach and articulate in the subtle manipulation of tectonic form to enrich the city. He is able to channel a burgeoning knowledge of architectural technology to enrich the creative process and has expanded his understanding of context absorbing historical, cultural, physical and poetic principles. Nick has been an exemplary student and made a valuable contribution to the supportive research culture of the unit. He is receptive to new ideas and eager to collaborate with other creative individuals. Certainly each task is approached with an enthusiasm and brio which informs a rapidly evolving methodology. Nick’s work focuses on the idea of a mixed-use creative hub which encompasses artist studios, café, bookshop, retail outlet(s), temporary exhibition space together with a dedicated space for the Royal Bank of Scotland’s art collection.

Nick adopts an analytical approach to design, simultaneously working through a succession of scale models, free-hand sketches and computer drawings (as appropriate) to develop each element. His appreciation of form is allied to an intuitive approach to composition.
The site at Picardy Place represents a great opportunity for the city to make a vibrant, dynamic place which employs contemporary architecture for the benefit of its citizens. Nick’s project confirms the potential of Picardy Place to be a more inclusive destination and promote the city as a creative hub.


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