Richard Murphy, who has been pursuing plans for a new home for the Filmhouse cinema and the city’s film festival for more than 15 years, said the £50 million development would rectify an anomaly, which has left arguably the most popular art form without its own “monument” in Edinburgh.
The architect, who designed the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh, the Dundee Contemporary Arts centre and an extension to Perth Theatre, said the 121 ft tall Filmhouse would give the city and the council a new building “as significant and as prominent” as any other arts venue in the city.
Mr Murphy said the project would also “finally bring much needed life” to Festival Square, a controversial public space between the Usher Hall and the Sheraton Grand Hotel, which dates back to the 1980s.
He was brought in last year to revive a previously-shelved idea for a film complex in Festival Square after a revamp of the existing Filmhouse was ruled out as unviable. The first designs were unveiled last month for the 11-storey building, described by the Filmhouse and film festival as a “21st century temple for film”.
New details of the project posted on the Filmhouse website reveal that the existing cinema could be retained as a cultural hub, even if the new building is created.
It is hoped the current daily attendance of 1000 at the Filmhouse would more than double in the new complex, which would boast six screens below ground and a “flexible” auditorium for special events, talks and screenings, which would look on to the Usher Hall and Edinburgh Castle when films are not being shown.
Mr Murphy said: “This proposal gives film in Scotland a building as significant and as prominent as those that exist for all the other arts in Edinburgh. It is an acknowledgement that film is the only art form without its ‘temple’.
“Music, painting, portraiture, artefacts and archaeology all have their prominent monuments but film, arguably the most popular and quintessentially 20th century art form, exists behind the facade of a 19th century church.
“It is also an attempt to ‘solve’ the problem of Festival Square, which was created from a former railway goods yard as part of a wider masterplan. A new Filmhouse, the only arts building that opens its doors from 9am to 1am for continual performances, has the potential to finally bring much-needed life to the space.
“The city council has also expressed an intention to traffic calm the adjacent section of Lothian Road in order to unite the square with the re-landscaped space outside the Usher Hall.
“The Filmhouse wants to increase dramatically its activity as well as its prominence. The proposal is to create a ‘community of film’ – watching film, discussing film, educating about film and making film all happening alongside each other in one building.”