A MULTI-MILLION pound extension to one of Edinburgh’s flagship visitor attractions is set to open in just over three years after the Heritage Lottery Fund confirmed its backing for the project.
Almost £5 million has been set aside for the scheme, which will transform the way the nation’s Scottish art collection is displayed in the capital.
Work on the overhaul of the Scottish National Gallery, which dates back to 1859, is expected to begin next year, if the Scottish Parliament approves a transfer of land from the city council and planning permission is secured.
First images of the project from award-winning Glasgow architect Gareth Hoskins, appointed to produce a design last year, show how a new open-air terrace and landscaped grass steps will be created in a redesigned East Princes Street Gardens.
Dramatic new views will be created from modern exhibition spaces, which will be linked to the existing foyer, cafe and restaurant beneath the precinct on The Mound.
The £15.3m project, due to be unveiled in the summer of 2018, will involve the south-eastern part of the building being extended out by five metres, to bring it into line with a recent underground extension of the gallery, completed in 2004.
The National Galleries of Scotland – which runs the attraction, currently the most popular gallery in the UK outside London – predicts the changes will “transform the entire visitor experience” and finally realise the potential of what is billed as “the world’s most important collection of Scottish art”.
The project is expected to roughly triple the amount of space devoted to work by artists such as Sir Henry Raeburn, Sir David Wilkie, William McTaggart, Alexander Nasmyth, and Allan Ramsay.
Key aims of the project include attracting more visitors into the gallery from the gardens and improving the circulation of people, while taking “full advantage of advances in digital technology” in the displays of the work.
Mr Hoskins has won huge plaudits for his work on the National Museum of Scotland, where former storage spaces were transformed to create two underground entrances from Chambers Street, which will also be resigned in the near future.
He is also working on the controversial hotel development earmarked for the former Royal High School, on Calton Hill, which had been previously earmarked for a national photography centre.
Colin McLean, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, which has approved in principle a grant of £4.94 million, said: “This collection of art is one of Scotland’s most precious belongings. It has the potential to delight, inspire and inform audiences from Scotland and across the world.
“We are delighted to give our initial support to a project which will allow many more of these outstanding paintings to be displayed and accommodate many more visitors. We look forward to seeing the plans for the transformation of the Scottish collection galleries develop.”
Michael Clarke, director of the Scottish National Gallery, said: “We are thrilled this proposal has been passed to the next stage by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
“As holders of the world’s foremost collection of Scottish art, our focus has always been on showing its significance and making it accessible to as wide a public as possible.
“Extending the gallery space will transform the entire visitor experience.”
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