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Observatory House

Calton Hill, Edinburgh


Completed - November 2021



Observatory House forms a prominent corner of the Collective City Observatory site, developed by Collective Architecture in 2018. The residential house dating back to the 18th century was designed by James Craig and was formerly used by leading astronomers of the age. The client’s mission for the project, is to bring people together around new art, by fully upgrading the house into self-catering apartments, creating a new, unique hilltop retreat at the heart of the Scottish capital.

Observatory House is full of character and history, the first of the collection of extraordinary buildings on Calton Hill. The design is focused on making the interiors feel calm and understated, to allow the multiple breath-taking views and integrated contemporary art to take centre stage. An emphasis was placed on making staying in the house a special experience; the upper floors feel light and airy with visual connections out in every direction over Edinburgh, in contrast to the lower level which feels more immersive and rooted to the hill.

Collective Architecture have opened new spaces sympathetically, creating a new larger kitchen and socialising space at upper ground and linking spaces to form a master suite on the top floor. New bathrooms were created with an understated palette of honed marble and brass with inviting freestanding bathtubs. The top floor bath has a view looking over the National Monument and the new lower floor bathroom extension connects to a planted internal courtyard, that was previously a closed off area of disused outhouses. The kitchen and dining space has been designed with input from The Lookout restaurant, to enable professional catering to be provided for guests, fine dining experiences or small gatherings.

Materials selected included a mix of natural finishes including, sandstone, wool, leather, rich walnut and brass accents, Lusso stone and Harris Tweed accessories, to complement the artist commissions.

The building’s historic 18th century architecture is now complete and complemented by contemporary styling and new artworks from some of the most exciting artists and designers working in Scotland today. These include; Rachel Adams, Thomas Aitchison, Rabiya Choudhry and Christian Newby who have all been specially commissioned for the new site. The fully equipped kitchen, designed by Aitchson, is inspired by the iconic silhouette of the National Monument. Adams meanwhile has created new textile and lighting works for the master bedroom, and Choudry’s trademark vibrant language covers the walls in a new wallpaper based on the history of stargazing. Newby’s commission complements these with a series of new wall paintings in the dining room of the house, subverting Western art tropes. The result is a dining room with harlequins, fruit and flowers adorning the walls. All of the artists have a long association with Collective, having participated in early career development programmes and exhibited in Collective’s exhibition spaces prior to these commissions.

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Photography Credits - Anna Henly, Scott Clark and Paul Andrews

Website by Graphical House

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