WHEN it completes in a few weeks’ time, the Waverley Arches project on the fringes of Edinburgh’s Old Town will provide some of its quirkiest retail and leisure space.
The distinctive C-listed arches under Jeffrey Street, which date back to 1875, are being transformed by South African firm Artisan Real Estate as part of a wider revamp of the Caltongate gap site.
Used as storage space for more than a century, the arches will house bars, restaurants and retailers, breathing life into a part of the city that has gone unloved for decades.
When the ribbon is cut on the scheme, Staran Architects – a small Edinburgh-based practice – will have particular cause for celebration.
Founded by directors James Ferguson and Iain Shillady in 2012, Staran has gone from business start-up to award-winning architectural firm in a little over three years.
The design competition for the arches was won by Zone Architects back in 2007 but the project was put on hold until earlier this year, with Staran picking up the baton.
Ferguson concedes that the high-profile development presented many challenges, with the firm working alongside both Artisan and contractor Union Projects to overcome a number of issues – not least keeping the space dry.
“There is an obvious sense of splendour with the detailed stone work within the vault of the arches ceilings. However, the practical issue was how to prevent water coming in from Jeffrey Street above,” he says.
“Traditional damp-proofing techniques suggested dry- lining the roof with a membrane, but any visual aesthetic would be instantly lost. We had to think outside the box, and worked hard with damp- proofers Richardson and Starling to come up with a clear resin that keeps the stone work in place, but still offers a robust damp-proofing solution.”
The frontages feature glass curtain walling, with lighting highlighting the arch shape externally. Internally, the stone vaulting is left exposed and up-lighting is utilised.
Shillady adds: “Completion of the development should create a great link between North Bridge and the New Waverley Development at the Canongate, turning what was a stretch of no man’s land, into a cool and vibrant ‘go to’ destination in the city.”
Work on the project has helped the practice grow to a team of four, with the firm moving into a new HQ in the capital’s Cumberland Street.
On top of the arches project, Staran – the name derives from the Gaelic word for pathway – was also lead architect on a youth hostel which opened in Edinburgh’s Rose Street last year.
The team is also involved in new-build projects and conversions, including transforming the former Broughton High School on McDonald Road, Edinburgh, into 74 residential units and the full refurbishment of an A-listed townhouse on Queen Street.
“There’s no doubt we are delighted with how the business has developed over the last three years,” says Shillady, “but our original principles haven’t changed. Our ambition is to continue our upward growth curve, but to maintain our ability to provide expertise, transparency and value for money to clients.”