Day One for Dunard Centre: work on our concert hall begins

Cellist Su-a Lee performs on site of future stage, ushering in a new era for music lovers everywhere

The first UK concert hall to be designed by David Chipperfield Architects and world-renowned acousticians Nagata Acoustics reached an important milestone today, as deconstruction teams moved in to start clearance works for Edinburgh’s Dunard Centre.

Newly released drone photography highlights the narrow site which will house the 1,000-seater venue, currently occupied by a 1960s annexe of the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters at 36 St Andrew Square. 

The Dunard Centre takes inspiration from the surrounding sandstone heritage buildings. The hallways wrap around the inner auditorium and form part of the acoustic volume, delivering clear, rich sound for performers and audience alike. The venue has been designed to provide an intimate showcase for live performance by artists and ensembles across all genres, and will also open up this previously screened-off city centre site to the public for the first time in 250 years.

Placing music at the heart of the project from day one, the site of the future stage was the location for a short performance by one of Scotland’s best-known musicians, Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s cellist Su-a Lee to a small group including construction workers set to work on the build.

 IMPACT Scotland Co-Chair Gavin Reid commented:

“The Dunard Centre will open up this unbeatable city centre site to the public for the first time in 250 years. What better way to prepare for the new than by playing out the old building with Ae Fond Kiss: a song both about partings but also a blessing for what’s to come. Live music on day one is the perfect start to this extraordinary project: it’s exhilarating to be here and getting on with the job.”

Su-a Lee, Assistant Principal Cello at Scottish Chamber Orchestra and member of McFall’s Chamber said:  

“Performing in a brilliantly created acoustic is a wonderful experience for a musician. When every note is so clearly articulated across the whole orchestra, it allows us to respond to each other in the moment. It also allows us to respond to the audience and to the building itself, which pushes the boundaries of colour and dynamic. It makes the experience very exciting for both performer and listener. When Dunard Centre opens, it will give musicians a very special place to perform music of all genres. As a member of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, I know that we are all looking forward to getting to know this new space and bringing together some amazing performances for our audiences.” 

Sir Robert McAlpine (SRM) is the firm appointed to manage this important phase of preparatory works which will remove the existing 1960’s extension to the iconic Royal Bank of Scotland branch at 36 St Andrew Square, levelling the site, ready for the Dunard Centre build.

Mark Gibson, Managing Director Northern, SRM, said: 

“SRM has long been associated with the construction of iconic, bespoke buildings and we look forward to working alongside Impact Scotland on delivering this initial phase of the Dunard Centre and completing the Concert Hall in the fullness of time. This important development at the heart of Edinburgh will bring huge benefits to the city, and will be an opportunity for the SRM project team to make a positive impact on local communities with tangible and measurable social value outcomes.” 

It is expected that all clearance work will be complete by late 2023 and that work will begin on the new concert hall soon after.

The venue will be a transformational new home for Scottish Chamber Orchestra, an iconic new venue for Edinburgh International Festival and a gift to music lovers and performers of all genres.  

The Dunard Centre is being funded through substantial philanthropic donations, including the visionary support of Dunard Fund, and underpinned by £25 million support from the Scottish and UK governments and the City of Edinburgh Council, as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.  Royal Bank of Scotland is supporting the project by providing a long-term lease for the land which sits directly behind Dundas House on St Andrew Square. 

A spokesperson for Dunard Fund, said: 

“Dunard Fund is thrilled that Sir David Chipperfield's monumental addition to Scotland's musical landscape is, from today, on the road towards completion as a home to all performance groups and individuals from Scotland and further afield, as a visionary venue for the Edinburgh International Festival, and as a more regular base for the Dunedin Consort, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the National Youth Choir of Scotland.”
Scottish Government Culture Secretary Angus Robertson said:
“I welcome this progress towards creating a world-class concert hall and new home for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in Edinburgh, it promises to inspire audiences and performers for generations to come.
“This Scottish Government funding worth £10 million through the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal is helping boost the economy by creating a world-class attraction in the heart of the city.”

UK Government Minister for Scotland John Lamont said:

"This is an exciting day for Edinburgh. The Dunard Centre will take a currently under-used location and turn it into a new 'jewel in the crown' for the city that will create jobs and opportunities and support local businesses.  

"The UK Government is supporting the project with £10 million through the City Region Deal, and across Scotland we are investing more than £2.2 billion to level up communities everywhere."

The City of Edinburgh Council Leader Councillor Cammy Day, said: 

“I am delighted to help mark this significant step forward for the first new concert hall in Edinburgh in over a century. Set in a most sustainable and accessible location, it adds a world-class cultural offer to the major regeneration of this area of the city centre. As well as reinforcing Edinburgh’s position as the Festival City and attracting top international performers, I particularly value the Dunard Centre’s commitment to community outreach, promoting inclusion, enabling the participation of people from all backgrounds and building an audience that reflects the true, diverse nature of society.”   

Judith Cruickshank, Chair, Scotland Board, Royal Bank of Scotland said:
“Royal Bank of Scotland is delighted to play our part in bringing this project to life. It’s a great example of what can be achieved with close collaboration across the city’s public and private sectors. 
“Edinburgh is a global capital and world stage for international arts, culture and music. The Dunard Centre will provide a new, flexible space to continue that tradition and create opportunity for more musicians and artists to develop and create.
“This site has been part of our story for almost 200 years, and we’re delighted to continue that story by helping realise the vision of the Dunard Centre for the benefit of future generations.”

For further information on Dunard Centre and IMPACT Scotland please contact Susie Gray, The Corner Shop PR, 07834 073795

Su-a Lee playing cello in front of 3 construction workers