After the setbacks and the multi-million pound cost over-runs, the new wing at the Usher Hall is ready to be unveiled to the world. From tomorrow people will be able to explore the much-awaited new addition to the grade A-listed building, which completes the £25 million, second phase of refurbishment of the Lothian Road concert hall.
Inside the glass-fronted wing, visitors will discover a new cafe/bar, a bigger box office area, topped by new hospitality spaces and re-sited and extended office accommodation.
"We are very excited to be unveiling this dazzling new wing at our much loved Usher Hall, now looking sensational after its refurbishment," said Councillor Deidre Brock, Culture Leader for the City of Edinburgh Council. The Usher Hall opened with the Edinburgh International Festival's opening concert and thousands of concert-goers will have seen the changes such as more disabled access, lift access to all floors, increased cloakroom and washroom facilities, and new bars on all levels.
"This event to unveil the brand new wing is the penultimate step towards the completed project in the summer. The Phase III landscaping works, which are progressing well, will really be the icing on the cake," said Brock.
"We are grateful to all our funding partners, including the Scottish Arts Council, Scottish Enterprise and the Heritage Lottery Fund, for their assistance in helping us create a concert hall fit for the 21st century."
Currently, the final phase of work is ongoing - these landscaping works adjacent to the Usher Hall will create "a pedestrianised, flexible space which will revitalise the area and lend it an appealing, 'arts quarter' ambience".
The Usher Hall has undergone multi-million pound renovations since 2000, with Edinburgh City Council finding funding support from the Scottish Arts Council, Scottish Executive Cities Growth Fund, Scottish Enterprise, Heritage Lottery Fund, private donations, trusts and foundations.
Usher Hall Upgrades
Phase one of the Usher Hall refurbishment project was completed in December 2000 at a cost of £9.75m. This provided the Usher Hall with new mechanical and electrical installations, upgrades to the fabric of the auditorium and internal spaces, a new stage and provision of removable seating to allow promenade concerts.
Around £25m was spent in a number of areas:
- a dedicated education space
- protection of the Hall's acoustics
- upgrades to access and circulation, with free movement throughout the building
- new staircases to link all floors from ground level
- public lifts and the creation of level access to the Hall by means of a stone plinth (the "Podium")
- a new wing housing a café/bar
- a new box office area
- additional hospitality spaces and re-sited and extended office accommodation
- expanded toilet and cloakroom provision (allowing increased audience capacity)
- refurbishment and extensions to the dressing rooms and other backstage facilities (in space created by re-siting the offices)
The so-called Public Realm works is currently under way to the exterior of the Usher Hall. The aim is to create a pedestrianised, flexible space which will help revitalise the surrounding area and enhance the arts quarter' ambience that the area enjoys due the Usher Hall's proximity to the adjacent Traverse Theatre and Royal Lyceum Theatre.
This landscaping work beside the Usher Hall is due to be completed by August 2010 at a further cost of £3.95m.