Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

Architect: Ica Studio

Hotel Group: Virgin Hotels

Construction: Thomas Johnstone Ltd

Structural Engineer: Will Rudd Davidson Ltd

Services Engineer: Rybka

The first Virgin Hotel outside of the USA is nestled in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town and UNESCO World Heritage site, in the oldest part of Scotland’s capital city. In an area renowned for its varied topography, picturesque medieval streets, and closes and wynds, the hotel combines the restoration of three distinctly separate ‘at risk’ listed buildings with new build elements carefully considered to re-establish the historic form of the site, whilst also showcasing a bold, contemporary Edinburgh.

The three existing listed buildings occupy dramatically different levels within the local cityscape, and the new Hotel allows the separate buildings to be linked to each other and to the new build part of the hotel with sympathetic yet modern interventions, creating an unexpected guest flow through the complex site, deliberately framing surprising views to both the more intimate bustling streets and towards the grander views of Edinburgh Castle over the Old Town roofscape. The hotel holds a variety of public restaurants and bars, event spaces, rooftop gardens and cosy bedrooms sitting between the dramatically different Victoria Street and Cowgate, creating a bold contrast between old and new, light and dark, modern and traditional, and showcasing the time-honoured characteristics of Edinburgh that the locals know and love.

With the hotel nestled within an area steeped with history, an intricate design solution for the new build exterior façade was embraced, creating layers and depth. A detailed understanding of the local Old Town character, along with the City of Edinburgh’s Planner’s desire for a ‘bold’ new hotel produced a contemporary yet sympathetic design, which allows the new hotel to blend seamlessly into Edinburgh’s distinct topography and roofscape. Sandstone was used to allow the new build elements to sit harmoniously with neighbouring buildings, whilst showing glimpses of modern detailing in the stonework, gables, windows and rooflines. Detailing of the building takes into account the east Scotland climate; materials are robust and well-detailed with pitched slate roofs and gable ends easily recognisable within the Old Town roofscape character.

The design delivers a sustainable development which provides a range of benefits including the reuse and redevelopment of existing listed buildings, maintaining the site’s historic character and heritage ensuring a sustainable use of land. A wide range of sustainability measures was utilised in response to local priorities which ensure the hotel delivers significant social, economic and environmental benefits contributing to a viable future for Edinburgh.