Edinburgh’s derelict RBS building that houses a secret basement

It’s not the only piece of brutalist architecture in Edinburgh – or even the most controversial – but the former Royal Bank of Scotland building on Dundas Street and Fettes Row catches the eye as decisions are made regarding the future of the site.

Sitting at odds with the rest of its Georgian New Town surroundings, all restrained elegance and pale brick, the building’s jagged plans and unique shape have led to commentators on the Edinburgh Subreddit describing it as something from Hollywood. It’s been compared to a laboratory in a sci-fi movie, the kind of MI6 siege that 007 would relate to and a rebel base in Star Wars.

Someone else has suggested that they “always thought there was a Blade Runner vibe” and several Redditers are convinced it looks like a Playstation 4.

Built in 1968 and extended in 1978 by Michael Laird & Partners on a site that once housed a greyhound track and a football club, it has been vacant since November 2018. It housed 2,000 employees before the building was closed and their move. , mainly in IT and data departments, with one former employee describing it as “a boring job, but a cool building” and others referring to the staff canteen.

A perfect example of brutalist architecture (Photo credit: Edinburgh Architecture)

Most notable were the large basement levels that housed most of the pre-cloud data storage – it was so important that not only few people had access to it, but the majority of elevators and stairwells did not. do not even have access to the ground.

Now that the building has been abandoned, intrepid city explorers have visited the building, which is still full of old computers and office equipment – although unfortunately vandals did, leaving the place “in a total mess, with lots of doors and broken equipment, and papers strewn all over the place, however, now that work has started on the site, it is guarded by security.

10 Design has been given permission to demolish the building as part of one of Edinburgh’s largest development projects in over a decade. The New Town Quarter will consist of a hotel, offices and 350 housing units.

Stockbridge, Edinburgh
The RBS building is somewhat relocated next to the rest of the New Town (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The existing building is said to have “poor floors and natural light”, although asbestos and mice also appear to have been a problem. The foundations of the building will be used in the future development, as well as some of the building materials (presumably non-asbestos).

However, not everyone is satisfied with the proposed development. One Reddit commentator summed up what he saw as the predictability of Edinburgh real estate developments this way:

“The fact that it’s turned into apartments / future Airbnbs instead of being allowed to become more overrun and turned into a laser quest is a testament to the lack of imagination in this city.”

But with many Edinburgh buildings on Historic Environment Scotland’s Hazardous Building Register, there is still hope that this dream will come true somewhere.

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