Top architects back bid to transform Smith's house
LEADING architecture and design experts have thrown their weight behind plans to turn the run-down former home of economist Adam Smith into an international business, study and conference centre.
The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) says the condition of Panmure House, a 17th-century building off Edinburgh's Canongate, may go into serious decline if plans to restore it do not get the go-ahead.
The body, which runs an annual contest celebrating new architecture and building restorations in Scotland, has praised the scheme proposed by Heriot-Watt University, which involves a modern extension to the building.
The RIAS has intervened weeks ahead of a public inquiry into the fate of the building. The restoration plans were called in by the Scottish Government after councillors overturned the advice of their own officials to approve a 3 million revamp.
Dating back to 1691, when it was built for the Earl of Panmure, the house was saved for the nation three years ago after it was bought from its then owner, Edinburgh city council, by the university's business school for 800,000.
Adam Smith, arguably Scotland's most celebrated 18th-century intellectual, spent the final years of his life in the house and he is buried in the nearby Canongate Kirkyard.
The proposed revamp would see the two-storey building, last used as council offices, become home to a new hub for conferences, seminars, research projects and an archive of Adam Smith material.
Historic Scotland and Edinburgh World Heritage have tried to block the plans on the grounds of its "inappropriate extension".
But RIAS secretary Neil Baxter told The Scotsman a proposed glass-boxed atrium, to be built outside the existing A-listed building, would be better that a kind of "pastiche" extension. He said: "It is obviously preferable that historic buildings like this are brought back into use rather than sitting there doing nothing and being left to mould away.
"We tend to prefer contemporary additions to historic buildings rather than any kind of pastiche extensions. My own view is that historic buildings should not be sacrosanct. They have to contribute to the life of the city.
"This part of Edinburgh is really historic, especially with the Canongate Kirkyard nearby, but Panmure House is not very well known at all, and bringing it back into use would give it more prominence. Not only is it a really historic building in its own right, but its connections with Adam Smith, one of the most important figures in the history of Edinburgh, make it even more important."
Historic Scotland has said the building is of huge importance as "a rare survivor" of a 17th-century townhouse in the heart of Edinburgh and that the modern extension would affect the "special interest" of Panmure House.
Born in Kirkcaldy in 1723, Smith, widely regarded as the founding father of free-market capitalism, became famous after publication of his 1776 manual, The Wealth of Nations.
He spent much of his life in Edinburgh, after studying at Glasgow and Oxford universities.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: North west