Edinburgh's Central Library to be centrepiece of multi-million pound cultural redevelopment

By Jenni Davidson | 16 December 2011 | Updated: 21 December 2011
A cutaway image of the plan for the new Central Library
Plans for the redesign of Edinburgh's Central Library© Edinburgh City Libraries
Edinburgh's historic Central Library is set to get a new lease of life and become the hub of a new cultural quarter, according to plans released by Edinburgh City Council.

The 121-year-old landmark will receive a complete makeover which incorporates performance and event spaces, a glass-covered café and a children's centre, as well as a "literary" hotel and restaurant and the headquarters of the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust.

The new development is intended to provide a focal point and hub for Edinburgh as the UNESCO City of Literature.

The refurbishment won't just include the modernisation of the current library building, but also the redevelopment of the site behind it, the nearby vacant council offices on Victoria Street and the vaults under George IV Bridge to incorporate them all into a giant cultural complex.

The library is desperately in need of renovation, but the council have struggled to find the estimated £10.5 million necessary to bring it up to current health and safety and access standards.

However, this new venture will be partially funded by the Royal Bank of Scotland, who own India Buildings, the former city registry office, on Victoria Street. The exact costs are not known yet, but the hotel and other facilities are expected to generate revenue that will help for the project.

Edinburgh's Central Library was first opened as a reference library, partially funded by a donation from Andrew Carnegie. It is Edinburgh's largest lending library, with more than 850,000 items, and it contains many key works on the history of Edinburgh and of Scotland.

The building was designed by the architect Sir George Washington Browne, who was also responsible for Edinburgh's Caledonian Hotel and Edinburgh College of Art.

The new development will increase the library space, allowing the library to show more of its significant collections, including art, photography, music, literature and printed materials, much of which has never gone on public display.

More pictures:

A photograph of the exterior of Edinburgh's Central Library
The historic Central Library building© Edinburgh City Libraries
A birdseye view of the plan for the redevelopment fo the Central Library
An aerial plan of the redevelopment© Edinburgh City Libraries
A plan showing four buildings to be included in the redevelopment
A plan showing the surrounding buildings to be included in the redevelopment
© Edinburgh City Libraries
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