Virgin Hotels Edinburgh – Hotel Building

Silver Award



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ARCHITECTURE: Commercial/Office/Hotel Building or Project




India Buildings Ltd


The Virgin Hotel is nestled in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, in the oldest part of Scotland’s capital city. In an area renowned for its varied topography, picturesque medieval streets, and diverse architectural character, the hotel combines the restoration of three distinctly separate ‘at risk’ listed buildings which occupy dramatically different levels within the local cityscape, with new build elements carefully considered to re-establish the historic form of the site, whilst also showcasing a bold, contemporary Edinburgh. Luxury guestrooms are combined with a variety of bars, restaurants, and private dining spaces at street level, enlivening both Victoria Street and Cowgate and opening out onto re-established closes and a semi-public courtyard with a stylish new rooftop garden, showcasing unobstructed views of Edinburgh Castle and Greyfriars Kirkyard. The new Hotel allows the three separate listed buildings to be linked to each other and to the new build part of the hotel with sympathetic yet modern interventions, creating a deceptively simple yet unexpected guest flow through the complex site, framing surprising views to both the more intimate bustling streets, and towards the grander views of Edinburgh Castle over the Old Town roofscape. Internally, the design brings Virgin’s playful concepts to life, creating joy in the unique spaces that the brand offers within both the listed and new elements of the building. The grandeur of the exterior extends into the interior design to enhance the features of the listed buildings, while anchoring everything in the signature Virgin experience. The numerous public spaces allow a great deal of flexibility and adaptability to suit different uses and events, from conferences to weddings to comedy and band performances, visiting DJs, fringe festival performances or intimate gallery exhibitions, and the re-use of Cowgatehead Church in particular, brings that building back into public use, engraining it back into the vibrant grassmarket community. With the hotel nestled within an area steeped with history, an intricate design solution for the new build exterior façade was embraced, creating layers and depth. A detailed understanding of the local Old Town character, along with the City of Edinburgh’s Planner’s desire for a ‘bold’ new hotel produced a contemporary yet sympathetic design, which allows the new hotel to blend seamlessly into Edinburgh’s distinct topography. Sandstone was used to allow the new build elements to sit harmoniously with neighbouring buildings, whilst showing glimpses of modern detailing in the stonework, gables, windows and rooflines.