Dramatic images have been released of what a five-star hotel at the heart of the St James development will look like, promising a distinctive addition to the city skyline that will change views forever.
Depicting a drum-shaped glass-walled central building wrapped in ribbons of bronze cladding, the eye-catching designs are certain to divide opinion, with one heritage campaigner describing the plans as “fanciful”.
Inspired by the area’s past as a hub for the city’s printing industry, and its future as a fashion mecca, the design is supposed to resemble a roll of paper from a printing press or a spool of ribbon – but commentators are already comparing the building to a peeled satsuma.
The hotel is likely to be visible from much of Edinburgh, with images showing a spire reaching high above the rest of the development.
The £850m Edinburgh St James development is set to bring some of the world’s top fashion brands to Scotland for the first time, as well as housing at least one hotel, luxury apartments, 30 restaurants and a multi-screen cinema.
Developers say the 210 room hotel, which will be designed by architects Jestico + Whiles, will include a top-floor bar offering panoramic 360 degree views of the city. Work is set to begin on the site later this year, with the existing St James Centre closing in September.
Martin Perry, Director of Development, TH Real Estate, said: “Jestico + Whiles has a well-deserved reputation for its excellent work on a number of prestigious hotel and leisure facilities throughout the world.
“The final hotel design is likely to be influenced by the operator and given Edinburgh is a highly attractive destination, we are encouraged by the response we have received from interested parties so far.”
Heinz Richardson, director of Jestico + Whiles said: “We are thrilled to have been selected to be part of one of the biggest and most exciting regeneration projects currently under way in the UK.
“The contemporary design will be sympathetic to the surrounding World Heritage site and its history, providing a first class destination at the heart of the city’s new retail quarter.”
Rather than putting a hotel there, it would be a perfect public square.”Marion Williams
However, Cockburn Association director Marion Williams expressed doubts that the ambitious design could be delivered, particularly over whether the wispy metallic tendrils would stand up to Edinburgh’s gusting winds.
She said: “ It is a concept, and at concept level you see some fanciful ideas from architects, which is no bad thing. But when it comes to actually building the design, I expect we’ll see something slightly different.
“Rather than putting a hotel there, it would be a perfect public square – an open space for people that things can happen in. It’s a bit of a shame to squeeze a hotel into what is going to be a very tight space.”