IT IS one of Edinburgh’s most neglected buildings, hidden away off the Royal Mile from the thousands of tourists who walk past every day, yet the 16th century landmark is revered as one of the capital’s unique architectural gems.
Now plans have been revealed for the transformation of Riddle’s Court, a courtyard house near Edinburgh Castle, into a 21st century centre of learning, inspired by one of the capital’s leading figures in the education field.
Sir Patrick Geddes, the pioneering town planner and educationalist, stepped in to save the Lawnmarket building in the late 19th century and transformed it into one of Edinburgh’s first university halls of residence.
Now the summer schools that Geddes used to run there, and his legacy as one of Edinburgh’s greatest thinkers, are inspiring the plans for the new-look Riddle’s Court, which is due to be unveiled in 2017, if the final stages of an ongoing fundraising campaign are successful.
The building will close for around two years from next spring to allow it to be transformed into a modern learning centre, as well as a new cultural venue and visitor attraction.
Almost £6 million is planned to be spent restoring the A-listed complex, which has played host to royal banquets, was once home to the philosopher David Hume and is the Fringe venue where comedy legends Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie first met.
Edinburgh-based LDN Architects, which was behind the transformation of the city’s Usher Hall, Assembly Rooms and Festival Theatre, have revealed images showing how Riddle’s Court will be transformed.
Modern spaces for courses, workshops and conferences will be created, along with office, exhibition space, a cafe-bar, and a Patrick Geddes Library.
Riddle’s Court was run as a community education centre from the 1950s by the city council, but it fell into disrepair and most of it lay unused when it was taken over by the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust (SHBT) six years ago.
Historic Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund have agreed to work to transform Riddle’s Court, which has been on Scotland’s “buildings at risk” register for years. It is hoped the work will get under way in 2015 if the final £600,000 funding shortfall in the charity’s campaign can be met in the next few months.
Una Richards, director of the SHBT, said: “This building was turned into a real centre of learning in Edinburgh by Patrick Geddes more than a century ago and we hope the work we are about to carry out will ensure that his legacy is carried on for the next 100 years.”