McEwan Hall, University of Edinburgh
By eminent architect Robert Rowand Anderson, designed 1875 as part of University Medical School complex, revised 1886-7, executed 1887-97. Roof engineered by DM Westland. Entrance pavilion by LDN Architects and engineers Buro Happold only opened for a matter of days when shot having started in April 2015; project included refurbishment of McEwan Hall and Bristo Square. Hall: D-plan Italian Renaissance graduation hall (shown here on graduation day) with semi-circular projecting stair towers. Rear of hall attached to the Medical School quadrant. Base course, moulded cill course at ground, entablature with moulded architrave and dentilled cornice at ground, 1st, 2nd and attic (plain frieze at ground and attic, decorated frieze with foliage and figurative carving at 1st, garland carved frieze at 2nd). Principal entrance consists of elaborately detailed round arched door surround flanked by Corinthian pilasters, tympanum with carving. Very fine original Renaissance interior design and decorative scheme with murals, consisting of 15 figures in the dome, 13 of which represent Arts and Sciences and mosaics by WN Palin.
A very significant highly decorated civic concert hall designed by the eminent Scottish architect Rowand Anderson, surviving in its original form. Its refined Italian Renaissance style was unique in the United Kingdom when built: a result of the architect’s thorough research into public buildings prior to entering the design competition.
The Hall was funded by Sir William McEwan (1827-1913) who established the successful Fountain Brewery in Edinburgh in 1856. In 1886 he entered parliament as MP for central Edinburgh with the brewery managed by his son. McEwan gave £115,000 to the University of Edinburgh to erect a graduation hall, and upon opening he was presented with an honorary doctorate and the freedom of the city of Edinburgh.
Robert Hope-Jones is recognised as being the inventor of theatre organs in the early twentieth century. He designed an organ incorporated an electro-pneumatic action, diaphones and resonator system which created very high wind pressure in order to imitate orchestral instruments. The organ creates a sumptuous and theatrically grand sound and is a very rare survival, only one other Hope-Jones organ known to exist in Britain in Battersea Town Hall.
The hall is built from stone from the Prudham Quarry, Hexham Northumberland. The stone was shipped by rail and also used extensively in the tenements in Marchmont. The exterior niches were designed to take statues but these were never infilled.