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New arts venue

Scaled down Dunard hopes to be in tune with planners

Dunard auditorium

The auditorium will seat 1,000 concert goers

New images have been released of the proposed Dunard Centre in Edinburgh, revealing a lower profile for the city’s first purpose-built music and performance venue in more than a hundred years.

Designed by architect Sir David Chipperfield and Nagata Acoustics, the Dunard Centre is intended to fill a recognised gap in the region’s cultural infrastructure.

The space has been re-imagined to retain the proposed 1,000 capacity, while reducing the size of the building. A 200-seat studio theatre which was due to provide a “rehearsal, recital and recording space to rival the best in Europe”, has been dropped in order to meet the building’s height limit.

There had been a series of objections, and legal threats, not least from the St James Quarter developer, about the height of the original building which will sit behind the historic headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland at the east end of George Street.

The budget for the project remains at £75 million, with two-thirds of this being met by private philanthropy and fundraising. Of this, £35m is being donated by Dunard Fund, and a fundraising campaign for a further £15m has already received significant pledges.

Lower profile for Dunard

The new proposal shows the concert hall barely visible above the historic HQ of RBS…

Impact concert hall RBS HQ

The earlier proposal showed the concert hall towering over the bank

As part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal the UK and Scottish Governments are each providing £10m, and City of Edinburgh Council £5m. 

The exterior of the building reflects the surrounding neoclassical design of the New Town and aims to opensup an undiscovered area of the city centre, linking the new St James Quarter, St Andrew Square and the Register Lanes and contributing to the regeneration of the area.

Fergus Linehan, co-chairman of Impact, which is behind the project, said: “It is a great honour to be leading a project which will make such a positive and inspiring contribution to the city’s cultural rebuild.”

The UK Government is investing £10 million in this project as part of a £1.5 billion commitment to Region Deals across Scotland.

Sir David Chipperfield said: “Tucked behind Dundas House and on axis with George Street, the Dunard Centre occupies a strategic site linking the formal qualities of St Andrew Square and the New Town with the more intimate atmosphere of lanes around Register House towards the new St James Quarter.

Cafe terrace and south entrance

“The identity of the building is determined by its circular form, contributing to the silhouette of the city and enclosing a 1,000-seat hall.

“This flexible world-class facility is designed to adapt to a wide-ranging programme of performances and cultural activities, ensuring it will serve as a meaningful new addition to the life and fabric of Edinburgh.”

The redesigned building will house:

  • 1000 capacity auditorium with the capacity for live streaming, digital capture and broadcasting  
  • flexible multi-purpose rooms for education, conferencing and hospitality
  • foyer with informal opportunity for performance
  • café/bar with indoor and outdoor seating

A variation to the planning application is being submitted this week. If planning permission is granted, construction will begin in 2022, with an estimated completion in 2025.


August 2018 – IMPACT Scotland submitted a planning application for a concert hall immediately behind, and directly connected to, Royal Bank of Scotland at 36 St Andrew Square.

April 2019 – City of Edinburgh Council granted planning consent for the concert hall.

July 2019 – Edinburgh St James (through Nuveen Real Estate) petitioned the Court for Judicial Review, contending that City of Edinburgh Council had failed to follow proper procedures in granting the planning consent.

January 2020 – An agreement was reached after the city council and Stephen O’Rourke QC acted as mediator. IMPACT Scotland, developer of the Dunard concert hall, will redesign the hall and submit a fresh planning application. Legal proceedings through a judicial review will be dropped.

August 2020 – Sir Ewan Brown stood down from leading the campaign under an overhaul of the board following the lengthy legal wrangle which threatened to bring an end to the project.

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