Written by Dr Eamonn Butler
The restoration of Panmure House – Adam Smith's home in Edinburgh – has been the subject of drawn-out discussions between the Edinburgh Business School (its new owner), Historic Scotland and Edinburgh city council planners. Everyone is keen that this historic house should be open to the public for public meetings, concerts, seminars and other events.
But the building's footprint is too small to accommodate the meeting rooms and the services (staircase, toilets, lifts, kitchens) required of a venue today.
The architects have solved this problem by creating a glass atrium housing an external staircase, providing the necessary access in a stylish way that does not require some bogus "period" solid extension; it does no violence to the house; it could be easily removed if the use of the house changed some time in the distant future; and it keeps the house visible and allows it to be lit attractively.
Historic Scotland seems to have objected to pretty much all ideas for an external stair.
But it would be a shame if Edinburgh's planning committee, which meets this week, rejects the proposal. Panmure House will survive only if it has a viable function. Without that, it becomes a useless hulk that nobody will care for, and will decay.
Given the sorry state in which past public-sector owners have left it – the only remaining original feature is one fireplace in the attic – the Edinburgh Business School's sympathetic restoration plans are a welcome improvement.
DR EAMONN BUTLER
Director, Adam Smith Institute
Great Smith Street
Published in The Scotsman here.