An award-winning new home breaks all the rules of what is possible in a small city-centre space
All architects want to build their own homes. Or so believes Richard Murphy, owner of one of the most striking additions to the Edinburgh cityscape in recent years. The project very nearly did not get off the ground, though. Edinburgh City Council’s planning department had recommended that his application be refused. Keen to fight, and armed with a thorough knowledge of the city’s architectural and planning history, Murphy – who in 2007 was appointed an OBE for his services to architecture – pursued the application.
“It was very perplexing,” he recalls. “I decided to lobby some councillors and a couple of them backed me and what I was trying to do. We went along to the meeting and, somehow, we won the vote nine to four!” To win against the planning recommendation for refusal is a rare occurrence – but then everything about this build is unusual.
The house is on Hart Street at the eastern end of the New Town and within the boundary of the city’s World Heritage site. It sits in an open space between the rear of homes on Forth Street and the gable end of Hart Street’s houses. Extensive research had revealed to Murphy that the site rested on the boundary between two Edinburgh estates – Picardy and Gayfield – but that they had not been developed in unity. “Hart Street peters out, the façades don’t line up and there’s a wide expanse of road,” he explains. In the 1960s, one entire side of Hart Street was developed into a hotel, resulting in the installation of a mansard roof and a botched gable end. It was not very well executed, says Murphy. He made the decision to build his structure high enough to obscure that gable.
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 126-136, issue 103.