Three approaches to the individual faces of the Hotel Missoni
Allan Murray Architects were commissioned in late 2003 by Kilmartin Property Group and HBOS to design a new mixed use development for the site of the former Lothian Region Council Headquarters building at 59-63 George IV Bridge. The site also includes two A-listed buildings which front onto the Lawnmarket, as well as associated closes, courtyard and part of Victoria Terrace.
The location is at a crucial position in the Old Town: one of the first buildings seen upon approach from the north up Bank Street, it is also on a pivotal location on the medieval Lawnmarket, as it is approached from the south up the broad Victorian improvement street of George IV Bridge, or up the curving Bohemian street of Victoria Street. In addition, it starts the final ascent to the Castle on approach from the east. For such a prominent location (the now demolished) Lothian Region Council Headquarters building offered very little to the visitor at this critical part of the city: there was no activation of street frontage, or uses which enlivened the main thoroughfares - the building failed to achieve its obligation to the city.
The now completed Hotel Missoni provides a marked improvement responding successfully to its location and providing an asset to the city. The approach proposed a philosophy of “unity through diversity” with different approaches to the building faces - an analogy of the 'end grain' of precious Royal Mile frontages with vertical emphasis and a delightful timber jetted segue piece; the three 'palazzi' frontages of stone tracery responding to the Victorian public buildings marching down George IV Bridge; and a new, sinuous arcaded entrance to Victoria Terrace.
Learning from the historical tradition of hard-won public space carved out of the urban frontages (as seen in nearby Gladstone’s Land on the Lawnmarket), new loggias are introduced to establish entrances for several additional uses brought to the site. The re-animation of the street with many uses - shops, cafe, hotel entrance, conference facilities and a new bank branch - is critical to the success of the design, and this extends to reinstating the historic vennels through and courtyards within the site, where a new glass fronted restaurant is located.