St Cecilia's Hall, Edinburgh

David Narro Associates were appointed by Page\Park Architects, on behalf of Edinburgh University, to provide structural engineering advice in connection with the proposed refurbishment of St Cecilia’s Hall in Edinburgh.

St Cecilia’s Hall is Scotland’s oldest purpose designed concert hall. It is located in the ‘Outstanding’ Old Town Conservation Area, is Category ‘A’ listed and dates from around 1760. The building fronts onto the Cowgate, a main Edinburgh thoroughfare and is flanked to the west by Niddry Street and to the east by Dickson’s Close.

The redevelopment project aimed to transform St Cecilia’s Hall to make it fit-for-purpose as the principal destination for musical instrument display, teaching and performance and to be a key cultural and ceremonial space for the University. In particular the project:

  • Redeveloped the concert hall, installing appropriate seating and improving sound insulation and acoustics.
  • Extended and redeveloped the exhibition galleries.
  • Improved access to the building, particularly relating to disability access.
  • Improved the services in the building, including heating, lighting and climate control.
  • Refurbished the roof and exterior envelope of the building, thus enhancing its historic characteristics and making it visually appealing.
  • Enhanced access to the building by reorientation of the entrance and improving signage.

St Cecilia’s can be summarised as four main areas. The oldest building is the original St Cecilia’s hall which houses the recital hall and dates from around 1763. To the south is the Free Masons’ Hall which fronts on to the Cowgate and was constructed in 1812. The Caretaker Lodge to the north and the Newman Gallery to the east were constructed as part of the 1960’s development. Archive drawings suggest that the building has been significantly altered throughout its life and most extensively during the 1960’s development.

From a structural perspective the re-development can be considered as three main operations:

  • Demolition of the Caretaker Lodge and construction of a new four-storey building on the same footprint. The new building is structurally separate from the adjacent buildings.
  • Construction of a new services enclosure over the existing Newman Gallery.
  • Alteration to the existing structure. These generally involved creating openings in or removing load bearing walls in the Free Masons Hall and the original St Cecilia’s building.