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Simon Square, Edinburgh

Words:
RIAS Jury

‘A delight from conception to completion’, Fraser/Livingstone’s sustainable housing revitalises the tenement vernacular to win a 2024 RIAS Award

Simon Square. Credit: Fredrik Frendin
Simon Square. Credit: Fredrik Frendin

2024 RIAS Award

Simon Square, Edinburgh 
Fraser/Livingstone Architects for Seven Hills Investment 
Contract value: Confidential
GIA: 432 m

Simon Square is a housing development in the lively Southside area of Edinburgh between Holyrood Park to the east and The Meadows to the west. Designed for a ‘boutique’ private developer, the brief for the project was simple – to unlock the potential of an old builder’s yard with a minimum of six apartments. The developer had an interest and ambition to do this in a way that was contemporary, carbon-conscious and used ‘healthy’ construction practice. Fraser/Livingstone Architects’ response is a clever re-examination of the tenement vernacular derived from specific site constraints, including how to avoid overlooking the neighbours while maintaining a building that has strong connections with the outside.

  • Simon Square. Credit: Images Above Ltd
    Simon Square. Credit: Images Above Ltd
  • Simon Square. Credit: Fredrik Frendin
    Simon Square. Credit: Fredrik Frendin
  • Simon Square. Credit: Fredrik Frendin
    Simon Square. Credit: Fredrik Frendin
  • Simon Square. Credit: Fredrik Frendin
    Simon Square. Credit: Fredrik Frendin
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It is a modest housing development which successfully fits into the tight and eclectic urban grain of the area. The serrated and stepping building form, developed as a direct response to challenging site constraints, adds a level of delight to the urban context. Windows are placed to address oblique views along the street and to the adjacent landscape, thus avoiding direct visual confrontation with neighbours. This approach not only successfully references Edinburgh’s Victorian oriel windows, but creates its own beguiling architectural language.

The overall architectural expression is derived from the grounded feel of the surrounding stone and rendered tenement blocks. The heaviness of the ground-bearing form is successfully expressed as a singular entity that appears to be extruded from the bottom up. To emphasise this, the brickwork has been treated with a lime slaister-coat dragged across its surface to unify the form and reinforce the notion of the singular heavy mass.

  • Simon Square. Credit: Fredrik Frendin
    Simon Square. Credit: Fredrik Frendin
  • Simon Square. Credit: Fredrik Frendin
    Simon Square. Credit: Fredrik Frendin
  • Simon Square. Credit: Fredrik Frendin
    Simon Square. Credit: Fredrik Frendin
  • Simon Square. Credit: Fredrik Frendin
    Simon Square. Credit: Fredrik Frendin
  • Simon Square. Credit: Fredrik Frendin
    Simon Square. Credit: Fredrik Frendin
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Cross laminated timber (CLT) forms the structural framing, which, for the first time in Scottish Tenement development, has been left exposed in both the homes and communal stairwell. Exposing these mass structural elements continues the solid material theme from the exterior and helps unify the architectural approach.

Astute detailing, decisions and development has helped create a building which has an internal calmness, is breathable and has a refreshingly natural feel while critically also achieving the statutory requirements. There is a dedication to both approach and detailing which is robust and exacting, and enjoyable to witness.

The jury considered the project to be a delight from conception to completion – a building that revitalises the vernacular and creates a sustainable and healthy set of spaces for residents. With its exposed timber surfaces and breathable construction, it is certainly a project that sets a new benchmark for sustainable Scottish tenement architecture.

See the rest of the RIAS winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here

Credits

Contractor True Build
Structural engineer Elliot & Company Consulting Engineers
Environmental/M&E engineer Harley Haddow
Principal designer/QS/cost consultant David Adamson Group
Acoustic engineer Robin Mackenzie Partnership
CLT supplier Egoin Wood Group

Credit: Fraser/Livingstone Architects
Credit: Fraser/Livingstone Architects
Credit: Fraser/Livingstone Architects
Credit: Fraser/Livingstone Architects
Credit: Fraser/Livingstone Architects
Credit: Fraser/Livingstone Architects

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