Inside the McEwan Hall restoration
As the restoration of McEwan Hall continues, we meet postgraduate students who are helping to renovate frescos on its ceilings and walls.
Architectural Conservation students are working with specialist conservators at the highest reaches of McEwan Hall to help restore the building to its former glory. The student internship initiative is part of a £33 million refurbishment project led by Interserve Construction to renovate the historic graduation venue and fulfil its original vision as a facility at the heart of both the University and the city.
Alongside experts from Scottish Wall Paintings Conservators, the MSc students have been cleaning and renovating the painted murals that decorate the walls and ceilings of the iconic building. Designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson in the Italian Renaissance style, the hall has been used for graduations, exams and countless other events since it was opened in 1897.
Architectural Conservation student Anushka Desouza says: “It’s brilliant to get a hands-on experience of things that we are learning in class.”
Vivid murals seen throughout the Hall’s interior are the work of artist William Mainwaring Palin. The central piece of art is a large painted work known as The Temple of Fame depicting a number of philosophers and former students.
Much of the original painting was also carried out by a team of decorators, and during the current restoration many signatures of those original decorators have been found throughout the paintings.
MSc Architectural Conservation
The University’s MSc Architectural Conservation programme is the longest-established postgraduate historic preservation programme in the UK.
The degree aims to provide students with the knowledge and skills to embark on a career in historic preservation.
Students on the Edinburgh College of Art course benefit from studying and working on the University’s historic estate – much of which is in the UNESCO World Heritage Site spanning Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town.
McEwan Hall was built between 1888 and 1897 through the largest single private donation in the University’s history, from the brewer Sir William McEwan.
It has long been in need of repair and is currently in the middle of a two-year redevelopment project that will restore the building to its original status as a major asset for the University and the city of Edinburgh.
Crucial works on the foundations and the renovation of external stonework have been completed. A new entrance pavilion and visitor spaces are to be built, and a new corner stairwell will provide access to all levels for the first time.
New ventilation and heating systems are being installed, and better humidity control will help preserve the hall’s celebrated organ, which underwent a restoration in 2014.
A letter from the Principal, Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, was sent to every recipient of the winter 2015/16 edition of Edit about the restoration, and there was a record response of generosity from alumni.
Response to date:
- 1,592 donors
- £217,665 raised
- Donations from alumni in 53 countries, spanning graduations from 1940 to 2015.
Through the Pathway to Enlightenment scheme, donors of £115 or more can have their names permanently recognised in the restored hall.
University Organist showcases restored instrument
To celebrate the recent restoration of the McEwan Hall’s magnificent organ, John Kitchen, who has played for no fewer than 400 of the University’s graduation ceremonies, has recorded a selection of music typically performed at the events.
Dr Kitchen has been University Organist for 27 years and recently retired as Senior Lecturer in Music. The recording was performed on the formidable organ built by Robert Hope-Jones in 1897 and considerably altered in 1953 by Henry Willis III.
The CD will be released to coincide with the June 2016 graduations and is published by Delphian Records, which was founded and is managed by Paul Baxter (BMus 2000) and in 2014 was named Label of the Year in the Gramophone Classical Music Awards.