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Project hit by costs and complexity

Galleries forced to remodel and delay revamp

Artist’s impression of original extension (Hoskins Architects)

Rising costs and complex engineering works have forced the Scottish National Galleries to remodel its planned revamp and delay its opening by a year.

Radical steps to redesign the project will mean scrapping one part of the plan after the original scheme was found to be more complex and costly than had been anticipated.

Engineers and builders said the railway tunnels beneath the gallery made the job particularly challenging.

The trustees say that the modifications should mean the project, which is aimed at providing improved exhibition space to the Scottish collection, should now be completed within its original £16.8 million budget, but not until 2020 a year after the original opening date.

The revised scheme will mean the plan to extend into East Princes Street Gardens will no longer go ahead.

The original proposal to build out by an additional five metres would have increased the available display space. The new galleries will still represent a doubling of the existing space that is to be dedicated to Scottish art in this area of the building.

In a statement, the trustees said: “Removing this aspect of the construction reduces the cost significantly and also lessens the risks involved in what was an extremely complex engineering problem, extending the building above the main-line railway tunnels.

“The Trustees have also decided that there should be a reconsideration of how the collection is displayed within the Scottish National Gallery as a whole, to ensure that Scottish art is presented alongside the international displays.

“This will mean a completely new presentation of the Scottish National Gallery and an entirely different visitor experience to the site.”

Sir John Leighton (photo by Terry Murden)

All of the other elements of the original project, designed by Hoskins architects, will go ahead as planned, including the creation of new Galleries at the Gardens level, new circulation routes within the site and new landscaping within East Princes Street Gardens to ease entry into Princes Street Gardens as a whole and the Scottish National Gallery’s Gardens level entrance.

These changes mean that further design work will need to be carried out and new statutory approvals may also be required.

The estimated completion date for the project has been pushed back from 2019 to 2020.

The statement says: “The aim is to keep as close as possible to the original budget although there will be cost and expenditure implications from the longer programme and extra design and project requirements. The exact costs will be determined in due course.”

Sir John Leighton, galleries director-general, said: ” NGS looks after an amazing collection of Scottish art and our aim is to provide these works of art with the world-class showcase that they deserve.

“As with any venture, this project has its fair share of challenges but we are delighted that we can now move forward with plans that maintain our ambition to completely transform the presentation of Scottish art and the experience of visitors to the Scottish National Gallery.”

In an interview with Daily Business in March he said Interserve, which is also working on the nearby Haymarket development, had issued about 60 sub-contract packages for the extension.

“Some of the tenders came back higher than we had hoped, so for the next few weeks we are doing ‘value engineering’,” he said.

“This is specialist work and in some cases there are only two or three firms who can do it. But they also have other options. The market in Edinburgh is very heated – there is a lot of construction work around, and then you have contractors pricing for the political uncertainty.

“It is a very difficult site. If you are a contractor and you can choose to build on a simple brown field site, or take on something as complicated as this it is not difficult to see why the price goes up.”

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop, today said: “I welcome the steps National Galleries Scotland has taken to ensure this ambitious project can be delivered in line with the development’s original aims.

Celebrating Scotland’s Art will significantly enhance the visitor experience at this already top-rated attraction, encourage even more people to access and enjoy its iconic collections, and raise the international profile of Scottish Art.”


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