Plans ‘despoil’ Edinburgh’s Scottish Poetry Library

A computer-generated image of the latest plans for the Scottish Poetry Library. Picture: Contributed
A computer-generated image of the latest plans for the Scottish Poetry Library. Picture: Contributed
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The creator of the Scottish Poetry Library’s home in Edinburgh’s Old Town fears it will end up looking like “a corner shop” if extension plans go ahead.

Architect Malcolm Fraser has accused library bosses of agreeing plans which will “despoil” his original vision.

Despite being asked to oversee an overhaul of the building, Mr Fraser’s plans were rejected as unworkable for the modern-day demands of the library, which has seen its collection double to almost 50,000 items, and another firm was handed the task.

The architect and the library – which is due to close for three months in the spring for building work – are now embroiled in a war of words, with Mr Fraser claiming he was “dismissed” from the project, while the library insists he resigned.

Robyn Marsack, director of the library, said the changes were needed to address long-standing problems with the design. Plans include the removal of a set of stairs leading to a stone lectern, built for outdoor readings but used for only ten days of the year on average.

She said the flight of stairs was “a health and safety hazard”, saying she had been left “black and blue” after falling down it and adding that they also proved a magnet for rough sleepers.

Mr Fraser said he had written formal letters of protest to both the library and Creative Scotland, which is funding the revamp to the tune of £100,000.

He told The Scotsman: “I drew a proposal that radically re-organised the interior of the building, gaining a much more welcoming and flexible central space, a large new meeting room and gallery and space for a whopping 80 per cent more books. This met and greatly exceeded what their brief asked for, so imagine my bewilderment when the board’s chair dismissed me, and went out and interviewed for new architects.”

Mr Fraser said he was particularly upset about the “banality” of the new plans, drawn up by Broughty Ferry-based architects Nicoll Russell Studios.

He added: “It is fine for a corner shop but not nearly good enough for a significant cultural institution in the Edinburgh World Heritage Site.”

The library has won the backing of Scotland’s national poet Liz Lochhead, who said the external stair was “a nice idea aesthetically”, but had simply led to people climbing up to find a locked door. She added: “A careful perusal of the new plans certainly convince an enthusiastic amateur like me that they… will work superbly for the users of the building.”

Nicoll Russell Studios declined to comment.


Malcolm Fraser on the Scottish Poetry Library