Royal Highland Show 2021

New performance venue on the way with the Dunard Centre

The Dunard Centre is set to be Edinburgh’s first purpose-built music and performance venue in over 100 years.

The City of Edinburgh Council have approved the plans, to create one of the boldest ventures in the city’s contemporary story, with the visionary support of Dunard Fund, the hall is ingeniously inserted just behind Dundas House off St Andrew Square.

The 1000 capacity Dunard Centre, supported by Royal Bank of Scotland, transforms a forgotten site into an exciting new destination for music lovers.

As the cultural flagship for the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, the Dunard Centre will fill a recognised gap in the region’s cultural infrastructure and provide a platform for local, national and international musicians to perform to audiences in a hall designed to rival the very best in the world.

Expert consultants Nagata Acoustics have been working with award-winning David Chipperfield Architects on the sleek auditorium design, which will welcome acclaimed UK and international musicians from the worlds of classical, traditional, jazz, pop, world and folk music.

Nagata’s previous high-profile projects include the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Philharmonie de Paris and Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, all venues renowned for their rich and immersive sound. David Chipperfield Architects have made their name around the world working on historic renovations and designing contemporary buildings including projects in UNESCO world heritage sites, such as the Neues Museum and James-Simon-Galerie on Berlin’s Museum Island, and the Procuratie Vecchie on St Mark’s Square in Venice.

The flexible setting will be a home for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra as well as host for other ensembles, choirs, solo musicians and bands.

A welcoming café and an all-day events schedule will ensure the Centre’s contribution as a cultural hub and showcase venue, with education and community outreach programmes encouraging participation throughout the region.

The new performance venue is a much-needed investment for Edinburgh which continues to be the world’s festival city. Other cultural destinations in the world are investing heavily in new venue infrastructure, leaving Edinburgh, which has not had a new hall in 100 years, at risk of lagging behind.

Fergus Linehan, festival director and CEO of Edinburgh International Festival and co-chair of IMPACT Scotland, said: “The Council’s decision today is fantastic news for the city and for music in Scotland. Edinburgh is a city famous for its cultural life and home to world-renowned arts festivals which generate over £300 million for the Scottish economy, but it lags behind many other cities in its provision of cultural infrastructure which currently deters some artists from choosing to perform in the city.

‘By creating a modern hall with outstanding facilities and acoustics, we are closing the recognised gap in the region’s cultural infrastructure and helping to sustain Edinburgh’s position as a leading cultural city against national and international competition.

‘At the same time, we are creating a year-round cultural hub to offer a diverse range of performances and an extensive education and community outreach programme.’

Gavin Reid, CEO of Scottish Chamber Orchestra and co-chair of IMPACT Scotland said: ‘This approval is tremendous news for the City and turns the ambition for a world-class centre for music and performance, into a reality. The Dunard Centre will become the new home of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and will be transformational.

‘A stunning auditorium offering the very best in modern acoustics and boasting state of the art digital broadcast facilities will allow us to dream big, expand our repertoire, collaborate with ever more composers and artists, present our work innovatively, courageously and flexibly all with a new-found sense of adventure and ambition, always seeking to reach more and more people.’

(From left) Joanna Baker, Executive Director IMPACT Scotland, Fergus Linehan Co-chair IMPACT
Scotland, Gavin Reid Co-chair IMPACT Scotland. (Photo: Ian Georgeson)

Sir David Chipperfield, principal, David Chipperfield Architects, said: ‘Throughout the process of developing the design of the Dunard Centre we have embraced both the qualities and the challenges of working with such an extraordinary site.

‘Embedded in the dense area of the Registry Lanes and also on the grand civic axis with Dundas House, the project marks the pivoting point between the New Town and St James Quarter.

‘Our ambition is to create a building of distinction that is respectful of its complex context while establishing a significant new cultural destination and place in this wonderful city.’

The Trustees of the Dunard Fund said: ‘Dunard Fund’s Trustees are delighted to be major funders of this once-in-a-lifetime development of a world-class venue for rehearsal and performance of music, dance, theatre and lectures of all genres in the very heart of Edinburgh, thus cementing Scotland’s reputation on the international stage.’

The news has been welcomed by performers, including Craig and Charlier Reid, The Proclaimers, who said: ‘The Dunard Centre would be a prestigious and fantastic cultural asset to the city.’