Monday, 18 May 2009

Boldly going...

The Caley's brewing coppers

This section of the Republic has in the past week roused itself from its customary sloth mode and travelled far, with investigation into various building and culcha related stuff, and along the way local fayre and ales have had to be sampled, all in the cause of fearless blogging natch. The National Trust is to be congratulated on the standard of its scones at Rufford Old Hall, and I can report with some authority that a glass (straight sided, none of yer soft, southern fancy tankards with handles here north of the Wash) of Deuchar's IPA tasted just as good at the Sea View Inn, Chorley as it did in Edinburgh.

Cheers to the Caledonian Brewery, aka The Caley, sole survivor of more than forty breweries which once graced Edinburgh, long may it continue:

Every brewery will have stories you say. Well how about this then? The only other place you'll find the same chute of our steels masher (which, incidentally, we use everyday) is in Burton on Trent - in the Bass Brewing Museum.

And speaking of a museum, that's essentially what we are - a living, working, thriving museum. A team of highly skilled brewers and motivated individuals all passionately dedicated to continuing the tradition of brewing ale in a Victorian Brew house which remains relatively unchanged since it's opening in 1869...

Our History
As authentic as Victorian distilling may be - there's a very distinct smell to the process. And so it's no wonder that Edinburgh was known as “Aulde Reekie” in the 1800s, given that there were over 40 breweries in very close proximity to one another clustered in the city centre. Whilst beer was the drink of choice (over water) for the working man at the time, high demand was not the only reason for the concentration of breweries...

...a pure supply of water (as one of the chief ingredients in brewing beer) was, and in Edinburgh it was known as the Charmed Circle of Brewing Wells.

The Caledonian was one these breweries and was opened by George Lorimer Jr. in 1869. It was as a result of two things: the death of his father and his love of the golf course. On the links he befriended many eminent Edinburgh brewers. Robert Clarke being one of them and when he inherited his father's estate, the two of them opened Lorimer and Clark's Caledonian Brewery on the current site.

More here:

The hope for its continuation is not only because if it didn't the world would lose some mighty fine beers, but also because the historic site would be sold off and no doubt something nasty and wildly unsuitable built in its place.

City of Edinburgh Council's dealings with Mountgrange over Caltongate continue to amaze; it is now revealed that the developers, who went bust before managing to demolish the listed buildings which the council was only too happy to bend over backwards, and indeed bend planning policies, to allow, as is its wont, haven't even paid the promised rent on the former city architect Ebenezer MacRae-designed tenements from which the residents were decanted.

MacRae was one of the pioneers of conservation. He renovated a number of Old Town buildings and where that was not practicable he rebuilt several facades in their original form. In his survey of the Old Town he was assisted by a newly qualified planner, William Dey, later of Gordon & Dey, and produced a policy report; and from that he proceeded to produce another policy document, 'The Heritage of Greater Edinburgh', which listed all the traditional buildings in the city which were worthy of retention, very much in parallel with the Marquess of Bute's lists for the country as a whole. A large collection of related papers is preserved in Edinburgh Central Library. His interest also extended to historic statuary, and he published an essay on the 'Lead Equestrian Statue of Charles II' in the Old Edinburgh Club Transactions.

(For more on the statue, and the current funding appeal to repair, see:

More here about the rental fiasco, and a picture of the tenements:

The grand plan was that these, built on the Royal Mile as model housing for the poor, were to form part the fakery facade of a Sofitel five star hotel. That was alongside the facade of the adjacent Sailor's Ark, a listed building, which once served as a seamen's hostel. Not sure if this was intended as ironic or was just plain insensitive. Despite long waiting lists for social and affordable housing, the tenements, perfectly sound buildings in a good state of repair, have been standing empty for a considerable time. The council also emptied a handsome listed building, the Canongate Venture, latterly re-used as small business units but for decades the school for children of the Canongate. Mountgrange was also intending to buy this from the council to demolish, to build a conference centre as part of its Caltongate development. The legality of the deal has never really been explained.

Here's an article which first appeared in the spring 2008 newsletter of ICOMOS-UK by renowned Edinburgh conservation architect James Simpson OBE, on exactly what was wrong with Caltongate:

The “Caltongate” development as it stands will have a profoundly negative impact on the values of the World Heritage Site: it is also a missed opportunity to show that, if the fundamentals of size, scale and grain are got right, new development, however brave architecturally, can be successfully integrated with urban landscapes of international value. Edinburgh was for many years seen as a trailblazer for urban conservation, commended for its far-sighted town planning policies initiated by Patrick Geddes - the father of town planning and of urban conservation - which had allowed the city’s skyline and urban spaces to evolve but maintain their significance over time.“Caltongate” is symptomatic of a new trend towards development of extensive areas of cites as single projects - reminiscent, alas, of the Comprehensive Development Areas of the 1960s. Bath Western Riverside, a large, highly contentious scheme in the centre of the Bath World Heritage Site, is another...

(For more on Western Riverside, those splendid campaigners at Bath Heritage Watchdog are keeping the world updated:

and under that link to the article by James Simpson is a little more about Mountgrange, Manesh Chande, and a few others involved in the sorry tale of Caltongate.

Manesh Chande, millionare co-owner of Mountgrange, the man who owes City of Edinburgh Council the rent, and the people of Edinburgh a huge apology, is currently serving a second term of office as a Commissioner for English Heritage.

It is widely expected that UNESCO, in its forthcoming World Heritage Site report following an investigative visit to Edinburgh in November triggered by mounting concern over Caltongate and other developments, will be very critical of the Caltongate scheme, and the failure of the City of Edinburgh Council to masterplan the site. Instead, it left that to the developer, and architect Allan Murray, and Mountgrange failed to properly consult with residents and heritage bodies over the scheme. Objections were ignored by the council. Historic Scotland also has little of which to be proud over this.

Mr Chande serves on the Finance and Business Committees of English Heritage. He is also a Commissioner Director of English Heritage Trading Ltd. No, honestly, I'm not kidding, he does, it says so here:

Other battles currently being fought in Edinburgh are the Tiger Developments/Richard Murphy designed Haymarket Tower (public inquiry soon) and the B Listed (although Historic Scotland is hoping to upgrade to A) Odeon Cinema, Clerk Street, where the all-important auditorium has been given permission to be demolished to build - yes, another hotel, although it sounds as though Historic Scotland, alongside the Cinema Theatre Association in Scotland

is at least on the side of right over that, and hopefully an inquiry will be called there too. The Theatres Trust and SAVE both objected strongly too, but the council knows best. Developers' profits are of far more importance than the preservation of listed buildings.

It appears, though, that the council-commissioned-and-paid-for report by Montagu Evans, which handily concluded, following the payment of around seven grand of public cash for work which took no longer than a fortnight to produce, and on the basis of information supplied by the (gosh) developer and the council, that demolition was the best option, has been looked at again. Historic Scotland has paid for another report (Drivers Jonas- what a nice little earner all these reports are for 'consultants') which says that the Montagu Evans report ('Montagu Evans LLP is a highly focused and dynamic property conultancy with a commitment to provide our clients with the best possible advice', clients list: Edinburgh City Council

was (let's be charitable) a tad erroneous and limited in its findings, and should possibly be disregarded. As one insider from the CTA says:

'The Drivers Jonas report concludes that the valuations and rental expectations quoted in the Montagu Evans report were unrealistic and inappropriately calculated, and that the only thing proven was that Duddingston House Properties were only interested in the maximum return for the property. It concludes firmly that "demolition is not the minimum necessary to retain the building. Indeed, we do not believe the demolition of the auditorium is justified". '

Lost is probably the cause of Princes Street, where the council gave permission last week for the demolition of another listed building and the erection of a new Premier Hotel and shop of not a great deal of architectural merit. Historic Scotland, Edinburgh World Heritage, and Architecture and Design Scotland all opposed the scheme, alongside other heritage bodies, but hey, what can they know? The developer, Deramore, wanted somewhere with nice views of the castle. Shame the views from the castle won't be as nice. Shame too that the tram system currently causing uproar will disfigure Princes Street, and views of many world class buildings, with poles and wires, but that's another fine mess by Edinburgh Council which will run and run, unlike the trams, behind schedule and way over budget I believe, which many would like to see scrapped even at this stage.

Recently unveiled too is the new Allan Murray (Caltongate) Hotel Missoni, in the heart of the World Heritage Site, which replaced a building by Sir Robert Matthew. Yes, heritage bodies objected to the demolition, but, surprise surprise, down it came, and the Hotel Missoni is another of those buildings from which it's best to avert the gaze.

Still to come is the Allan Murray Cube, nearing completion near his Omni Centre, and the demolition of the St James' Centre (no loss, although the buildings demolished in the recent past to build it are) for - yes, another Allan Murray. Then there is his SoCo development on the site where a major chunk of the Old Town was consumed by fire, again passed by the council despite it not conforming to the Development Brief, objections from Historic Scotland, Edinburgh World Heritage, etc etc.

As Marcus Linklater wrote in the Times:

Why leave a city's designs in one man's hands?
Edinburgh's celebrated skyline is threatened by a planning policy that puts mediocrity before imagination or beauty...

Thank you again to the Society of Antiquaries for another mention of the Republic:

and the advice given in a recent edition of SALON:

Fellow Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage, responded to Mark Horton’s concerns about the impact on archaeology of a Severn barrage with news that solar water heating panels are being installed successfully on the roofs of Georgian tenements in the heart of the World Heritage Site and are already supplying more than 50 per cent of the annual hot water requirement of forty-nine listed properties. Adam says it is essential to ‘dispel the myth that historic buildings are neither energy efficient nor capable of being sensitively retro-fitted with sustainable energy measures’.

He also recommends that Fellows visiting Edinburgh between now and 7 June 2009 should make time to visit the stunning exhibition at the
National Gallery of Scotland celebrating Turner’s love affair with ancient Italy.

Well, the exhibition was duly visited, and it is indeed excellent. Do not miss it. You don't have to be a Fellow, all are welcome.

Friday was the major conference on historic buildings and which I mentioned in the blog here:
This is a Changeworks event, funded by eaga Charitable Trust and Edinburgh World Heritage

It was held, appropriately, at the Hub, a former church in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, now converted to other uses.

I gather that in general the advice was to not worry overmuch about spending a fortune on too many eco-gadgets which may not be terribly effective.

Adam Wilkinson of Edinburgh World Heritage's advice was that sustainability is possibly best served by first of all looking at simple measures such as closing the shutters, draughtproofing and good insulation of existing stock, and above all by retaining and adapting solidly built historic buildings, not demolition, as the embodied energy which they represent is long paid for environmentally. Howard Liddell, of Gaia Architects, a major expert, was rather of the opinion that we are doomed anyhow, unless we really do wake up to the impending crisis, which few in governments, here and elsewhere, seem to be keen to do.
His book is duly ordered:

(Eco minimalism)the Antidote to Eco-Bling

Howard Liddell

In this age of ‘eco-bling' where sustainability becomes yet another buzz word and people rush to technically fix green badges to their unsuspecting buildings, not all ‘green' additions to buildings are necessary. Eco-minimalism: the antidote to eco-bling is timely in highlighting more realistic and cost effective approaches to becoming ‘green' and in showcasing ‘eco-minimalism' - a good-housekeeping approach to ecological building design and specification, involving apparently non-glaringly obvious strategies such as insulation, draught-proofing and the use of healthy materials. This book aims to expose the pitfalls of ‘greenwashing' in an immediate, visually-arresting and authoritative way. The intention is to present basic tenets in a quickfire, highly accessible format that is based on 30 years of practical experience. A number of case studies support its central message, that the scattergun, ‘Christmas tree' approach should be ditched in favour of ‘eco-minimalism' – the holistic, considered and appropriate deployment of building science in support of truly ecological, affordable sustainable architecture for everyone.

Reviewed by Adrian Cave, Principal, Adrian Cave Associates:

This compact little book practises what it preaches, using the minimum number of words and resources to convey important ideas about sustainable design. The author, who is recognised as one of the leading ecological design architects in Europe, with expertise in building biology, ecological design, sustainable development, masterplanning and community architecture begins by refuting many common assumptions about sustainable design. This will make uncomfortable reading for many architects by demonstrating the irrelevance of much current practice...

From a 2002 paper by Howard Liddell, Gaia Architects:

To return to the beginning of this paper - it is not the fact that the responsibility of delivering sustainable developments and the whole ecological agenda in buildings is “daunting”- it is the fact that it is being made more complicated than it need be. The world is suddenly full of carpetbaggers purveying their eco-goodies and quack doctors with their snake oil remedies, whilst the populace is still insufficiently knowledgeable about the nature of the status quo to be able to resist.

The advice therefore is simple. Trust your traditional instincts to do the straightforward thing first and be wary of strangers bearing gifts.

Much of ecological design lies in the identification and revival of commonsense and good practice - albeit it often requires new knowledge and insight to underpin it. It also needs for us to go back and question all the new man-made and often "magical remedy" materials that have rushed into buildings over the past four decades.

Nothing wrong with a good wool vest, is my view. Warm and ecologically sound.

Finally, I cannot allow anyone to pass by this site without reading the latest offering from Caius Plinius, and I hope the letter from from Archibald Clark-Kerr, 1st Baron Inverchapel, British Ambassador to Moscow first penned in 1943, and which I wonder if he ever thought would become quite so public, continues to bring a little ray of light to illuminate the gloom!



PS Republic Follower Jayne has sent me this e-mail:

It's so depressing that absolutely nothing seems to stand in the way of developers massacring such beautiful places. See this article about St George's Square No heed was paid. Our lovely cobbles were dug up and replaced with pink Chinese tiles which look horrendous. And to add to all the fun - the main contractor doing the job went bust a couple of months back before work was finished. God knows what the end result is going to look like :(


No comments: