Sydney Mitchell and Wilson, 1887-1889. 4-storey, attic and basement, rectangular-plan, university amenity building in 16th century Scots palace style with Holyrood Palace-type drum towers and large late Gothic traceried windows, coped crowstepped and pinnacled gables; 2- and 3-storey, 5-bay wing in 16th century style to NW added 1902-1905 by same architects. Squared coursed sandstone rubble, ashlar dressings. Substantial 3-storey, 3-bay, rectangular-plan Modernist style extension to SW by Jack McRoberts of Rowand Anderson, Kinninmonth and Paul, 1962 (Blyth & Blyth, structural engineers; Arnott McLeod & Co, contractors).
N (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: symmetrical, coped crowstepped gable end; 4 bays to centre flanked by towers. Advanced pointed arched crenellated stone porch, 2 leaf timber boarded door, octagonal buttresses; flanking bipartite transomed and mullioned windows. Bipartite traceried, transomed and mullioned pointed arched windows (tall windows at 2nd floor). 1902 extension advanced to right: 3-storey gabled and turreted bay to left; 2-storey, 4 bay section to far right. Transomed and mullioned tripartite windows, octagonal ventilator.
E (SIDE) ELEVATION: slender circular-plan towers to corners; advanced crenellated 2-bay, 4-storey section to left. Ventilator to ridge.
S (REAR) ELEVATION: 3-storey, canted 3-light windows to centre. 1962 extension further left.
INTERIOR: a good original decorative scheme in place with fine tracery detail woodwork, plaster work, paired turret stairs, and panelled rooms principally of 16th century character. Later alterations and modernisations to form various bar and restaurant spaces. 1st Floor reading room. Paired circular stairs with fine ribbed ceilings leading to 2nd floor panelled hallway and Debating Hall with curve fronted balcony to N end and shallow pitched hammerbeam roof. Linear Servitors flat to 3rd floor extending into turrets with plain fireplaces. 1902-1905 extension: ground floor contains galleried library with fitted glass fronted timber bookcases (converted to bar 2006). 1st Floor Middle Reading Room with fireplace and Dining Room with paired marble and timber fireplaces with integral bust niches to either end, tunnel vault ceiling with decorative vine banding.
1962 EXTENSION TO S: 2 storeys on concrete columns with compartment beneath, 3 by 3 structural bays, rectangular-plan. Reinforced concrete construction. External walls of white board-marked concrete. Basement compartment with white roughcast render; wrought-iron boundary fence. Fenestration consists of 3 glazed wrap-around bands with no corner supports, upstand beams form divisions at 2nd floor level; 4 domed roof lights inset between upright columns. Tapering support columns of cruciform plan to lower section, circular plan to upper section, inverted conical heads projecting beyond edge of beam.
INTERIOR: entry from main building on Park Place. Upper level dining room, with gallery, conical headed board-marked columns, Parana pine linings and hardwood block floors. Gallery stairs on board-marked concrete spines with hardwood treads and balustrades without risers. Servery connected to the kitchens in the old building by a flying link on the north. Lower level billiard room accessed by a flying stair within the earlier building, lined with horizontal Parana pine boarding, linoleum and rubber floors. Carpenter's workshop in the ground level basement.
Statement of Special Interest
This gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the building(s). It is not intended to be definitive.
This student union is prominently located in a key corner site along the periphery of the Edinburgh World Heritage Site within the heart of the University Buildings. It is an important building in the lexicon of Scots Renaissance revival architecture and also has an important and sympathetic post-war extension.
Sydney Mitchell and Wilson specialised in institutional and country house commissions and are lauded for their virtuosity in Free Renaissance architecture in the late 1880s and 1890s.
When Kininmonth was first approached by the University Union to build an extension over the fives court, in 1948, he proposed a stone structure, but government funding was not possible until the building was transferred to university ownership. The cost of continuing the traditional style and construction would have been prohibitive and the executed design dates from 1960.
The Union extension has a freedom of execution uncommon in Edinburgh at the time in its uncompromising beton brut Modernist style, the column supports marked by a bold formwork pattern of batons and nailheads. The obscure location, in a service lane, allowed a more radical design than the planning authorities might otherwise have permitted in a central area of the city. The inspiration in this instance seems to have been provided by the concrete structures of Italian engineer, Pier Luigi Nervi, which were heavily featured in the architectural press at the time.
A fire in 1994 gutted the Debating Hall after which all the timber was reinstated.
(List description updated in 2006 and at re-survey 2011-12.)
Statutory address updated (2015). Previously listed as '22-23 Teviot Row, Teviot Row House, University of Edinburgh Students Union'.