Between now and the end of November 2020, we are in a redevelopment phase. It's going to be a bit of a pain but will be worth it in the end. Essentially though, we will only have St Ninians Hall, Baillie Meeting Room, and some of our offices available. However, we have access to other spaces that we are managing so don't let the development put you off coming to us for your event.
Click the headings below to go to find out more:
What we want to do
Whilst we have some great facilities at the moment, we are aware that we're operating in a suite of buildings that date back over 100 years. So we have developed plans to make them a more user friendly resource.
We don't wish to change a great deal in the Centre. Our aim is to make the building look more open and less intimidating. This will involve the removal of most of the railings and solid wooden doors, and the installation of more glass. All tastefully designed to reflect the conservation area we are in and to celebrate what the building is about. We will have a better entrance and reception area, better accessibility around the Centre, increased facilities and upgraded utilities. We will also develop a Social Enterprise Hub for pre-start up support, a Village Square Community Hub, and a brand new multi-faith Sanctuary space. All of this embracing an ethos of Welcome, Hospitality and Inclusion to all.
Why we want to do it
Whilst the centre continues to operate, its design and layout is not conducive to a modern accessible community resource. Rather than sell off the buildings, the Church of Scotland through the Presbytery of Edinburgh have allowed Greyfriars Kirk to work up plans for developing the premises as a self-sustaining community resource. The Kirk has history in creating a successful social enterprise in the form of the Grassmarket Community Project in partnership with the Grassmarket Mission. This underwent an expansion in 2013 and is serving the local community, especially those experiencing homelessness, in a positive way.
Difficulties with the current arrangement include the location of toilets and kitchen facilities that, other than one toilet in the vestry, are not available for the Kirk o'Field Hall without making use of the St Ninian’s Centre. This causes issues around shared space for other lettings and general access around the premises, which is also hampered by various staircases. The only level access at present is via the St Ninian’s Centre entrance through to the St Ninian’s Hall which also incorporates a toilet and kitchen area, and to the Cowan Rooms.
With the current set up, we have had to turn away some groups who would want to use our premises because of the lack of suitable access and facilities, plus we have encountered some difficulties from centre users in finding the particular part of the building they are meant to be in.
Above all, we want to do this because we believe in the local people and want to carry on what Revd Charteris began over 120 years ago. We want to create a Centre for Community that truly welcomes everyone, includes everyone, and provides hospitality and support to everyone according to need. We believe this is the right location to do this from and, with the support of the Greyfriars Kirk congregation as part of their ministry outreach, we believe we are best placed to make this happen.
How we want to do it
Konishi Gaffney Architects were appointed in November 2017 to develop proposals to modify the Greyfriars Charteris Centre. Before appointing them, we had given much thought to the need for new and better accommodation addressing the present problems constraining the centre from operating to its fullest potential.
Konishi Gaffney Architects’ approach for this project was to provide a light-touch: to concentrate on materials, simple details and practical solutions such as improving access to the halls, adding toilets, simplifying circulation and bringing more light into the interior. It was important to improve the current state of building (the heating system is being completely upgraded as part of these works) but also to work with context and propose a design in character with the existing building.
There are 5 key design proposals:
To connect the church halls to the street visually and physically.
It is proposed to extend the lower windows on the Pleasance down to street level and infill these with clear glass. Also, the whole entrance hall would be lowered to street level to provide wheelchair access.
To connect the ground floor to Harry Miller Hall in the basement.
A new special stair is proposed for circulation and to double as flexible space for work, meetings and presentations. This design approach means the basement level becomes a much more useful space with light brought in from the west and with views from the street.
To make a separate ramped access to the Harry Miller Hall on Brown Street.
This will provide wheelchair access to the basement level and provide an additional entrance and fire escape.
Infill link building.
This would form the main formal entry: a lobby, a new lift to allow access to every floor in the two adjacent buildings, including basement level and mezzanine level in the main hall.
To upgrade the existing windows.
The proposals include replacing the existing windows with new clear and double glazed windows to provide better light (replacing the existing glazing that is affectionately known as “toilet glass”) and ventilation, plus improved thermal and acoustic efficiency.
Construction of a ramped entry to the basement level and the proposed internal modifications including lowering the lobby area floor level to the same as the adjacent street level will provide a universally accessible link to all spaces in the buildings; which currently does not exist.
1. Existing level access to St. Ninians Hall and offices.
2. Proposed main entrance through new link building.
3. Removed stairs and dropped floor level to provide a secondary level access.
4. New ramp in place of stairs to connect Harry Miller Hall to Brown Street.
The entrance level would be reduced to ground level for access. New stairs from the ground floor lobby will connect the basement floor with the rest of the building which doesn’t exist at present. A platform lift will provide access to the existing nave / church hall and a new disabled access lift will run to all floors.
The infill building between the church and the St Ninian’s Centre offices is tall narrow and vertically proportioned (10m tall by 3.6m wide). We’re proposing a positive and architecturally strong element between the two buildings. We see this as distinct and materially different from the existing buildings but something that can still link between the two architecturally and physically.
The new extension sits discreetly in the gap in between the two existing buildings. It has been carefully designed using high quality materials and finishes to suit its surroundings. A splay to the ground floor opens up the entrance door to the street and integrates signage and a small overhang in aluminium offers rain protection at the entrance. The heights are set by the neighbouring buildings and the infill is designed to give a simple and clean elevation.
Most of the existing windows allow very poor daylight penetration, offer no openable windows for ventilation and are in need of replacement throughout to improve levels of thermal insulation. The proposals would see all the windows replaced within the existing openings with double glazed, timber windows painted dark grey. Natural ventilation will be provided through low and high level openings in the windows. The west facing ground level windows are proposed to be cut down to ground level and infilled with new structural glazing. The existing timber doors to the front would be replaced with double glazed aluminium framed doors.
Internal and minor external alterations will improve the performance of Harry Miller Hall, which will continue its use providing office space. Replacement of the existing external steps with a ramp will provide a level access from Brown Street while new windows will bring more light and provide better natural ventilation of the space. New stairs from the ground floor lobby will provide a connection with the rest of the building. A new lift will allow wheelchair access from the ground floor and toilet facilities will be improved with new toilets installed serving both basement and ground floors.
By dropping down the floor level at the west side of the ground floor to street level, a new lobby space will be created. It will ease navigation around the building and form the main circulation area. The existing reception and kitchen facilities will be improved and new toilets provided. The rear side of the church hall will accommodate much needed storage.
The gallery space will be dropped down to the level of the first floor of St. Ninian’s centre offices and will be connected with a walkway running through new link building. The currently underused gallery space will be transformed into a “sacred space”: A non-denominational sanctuary for use by all faiths and none. A new staircase in the bell tower will provide fire escape and access to the sacred space from the ground floor lobby.
A bridge on the second floor will connect the new lift with St. Ninian’s office spaces.
The proposed alterations to Greyfriars Charteris Centre would provide wheelchair access to the halls and much needed improvements including toilets, improved circulation and lift. A new main formal lobby with a lift lowered to the street level will make a new clear and legible entrance to the buildings and simplify the organisation and control of the centre.
By upgrading existing windows, the proposals will provide light and ventilation and improve thermal and acoustic efficiency of the centre.
Cutting down the main west facing nave window to street level allows the church halls and their social function to be visually connected to the street and invite people into the centre.
The new link building is a clean, simple and high quality addition to the streetscape which links the two buildings together and offers and new, central and welcoming entrance.
When we want to do it
We have been working with the current design team, led by Kieran Gaffney of Konishi Gaffney Architects, since November 2017. This followed on from a feasibility study carried out by Hoskins Architects which led to a formal design team tender process. Since then, we have been gauging the views of current Centre users and local residents, as well as firming up our own vision for future activity in the Centre.
The current forward timeline for works is as follows:
May/June 2018 (submitted to City of Edinburgh Council on 2 May)
Approved 12 December 2018
Building Control application:
December 2018-June 2019
September 2019 - finalising matters with City of Edinburgh Council
Completed August 2019
Contractor Appointed September 2019
Contractor mobilisation / lead in:
Commencement of works:
18 November 2019 for up to 51 weeks.
With this timetable in mind, we now need to work to secure the final bits funding required although our current gap has been underwritten. We are also being assisted in this process by the University of Edinburgh.
We will also continue to closely liaise with existing Centre users around the probable disruption to their usage of the Centre throughout the works period. We will consider timetable adjustments or sourcing of external space to support the groups as much as feasibly possible. Their help in the development plans and regular presence are highly valued and we want to work as hard as possible to maintain their support.
Context for Redevelopment
The former Deaconess Hospital which neighbours the premises has a historical motto fixed on the front of the building: Christo in Pauperibus which means “to Christ in the poor."
The Very Reverend Professor Archibald Charteris said: “It is they who dream bright dreams that in the end deliver …… do not be afraid or ashamed to announce splendid hopes. It is enthusiasts the world needs and I pray you to be enthusiastic.”
We read in Isaiah 58:12 that we can be known as “those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community liveable again.”
These quotes in part have helped shape the initial vision for creating a multi-faceted resource for the local community that extends the mission outreach of Greyfriars Kirk. And with the words of Professor Charteris echoing around, it is right to set a big vision first, and then see that can be enabled to happen through funding and income generating activity.
Acknowledging the past
It is right in this new development to properly acknowledge the immense heritage contained within these buildings. This development is not just about retaining the heritage of the buildings but of its forefathers as well. This is why it was important to reinstate the name of “Charteris” into the new name for the centre as his vision can be furthered through the activities within the redevelopment. Incorporating the Greyfriars name cements this as part of the mission outreach of Greyfriars Kirk and maintains a key level of involvement from the church as a whole.
It is also important to acknowledge the many Deaconesses who have walked these floors, especially Lady Grisell Baillie, plus the St Ninians Mission, the Very Rev Harry Miller and Rev William Cowan. And so the existing usage of the names for the St Ninians Hall and Harry Miller hall will be retained, but added to with Lady Baillie, the Deaconesses, Rev Cowan and possibly others.
Many memorials are contained within the buildings. Some are visible but others are hidden away. Some are to the people already mentioned. Others are to local people who lost their lives fighting for our country in various wars and have come from the various churches who have united on this site over the years. It is therefore hoped to bring all of these to a central point to honour those who have gone before, and to ensure a lasting legacy. One such memorial is to Rev Charteris himself, and this will have a prominent place in the new reception area.
In addition, we have retained some of the former church pews to make new items include a reception desk. This preserves even more of the heritage of this site for the future. The workshop team at Grassmarket Community Project, the sister project to the Greyfriars Charteris Centre, have been tasked with this work as this is their area of expertise.