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High Commendation Building Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

Scotland's heritage housed in a masterpiece of spatial and visual design, beautifully crafted in superbly finished materials.

Architect Benson + Forsyth's competition-winning design for an uncompromisingly modern extension to the Royal Museum on Edinburgh's Chambers Street has distilled the essence of Scotland into a brand new castle.

From the moment you approach the finely cut rich-red sandstone of the rain shield cladding, it is apparent that quality took precedence over the bottom line and penny pinching economy. The choice masonry and stone floors are accompanied by perfect alabaster-like concrete soffits and plaster finishes so uniform that they are left unpainted; straight from the trowel. And in odd corners where perfection was not achieved first time round the finishing work has been done again to make sure that it reached the same standard.

The overall result is that generations of visitors will delight in the new Museum of Scotland's complex interacting spaces, vistas looking out over Edinburgh, finely worked materials and not least, the exhibits around which the building has been designed.

When the original design was picked from the 273 competition entries, the museum was to be an extension to Fowke's Royal Museum of Scotland. As the scheme developed it adopted its own identity with a separate entrance into a keep-like round tower.

The exhibits encompass everything Scottish from ancient standing stones in the crypt-like basement to a whisky still and 19th century locomotives housed in an upper floor that resembles a machine room. Many of these fixed exhibits were literally built into the structure. Flexible space of the upper floor allows for a relatively rapid turnover of artefacts from the 20th century and beyond, while a roof terrace provides magnificent views across Edinburgh.

Judges' comments

'Though unashamedly modern, the Museum has been sensitively integrated into its historic urban setting. Visitors enjoy a rich experience of space and light and the seamless interweaving of structure and exhibits. The building displays much immaculate craftsmanship and includes exposed insitu concrete of superb quality.'


Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland


£34M (building) £20M (exhibition)

Principal designer

Benson + Forsyth

Structural engineer

Anthony Hunt Associates


Bovis Construction (Scotland)

Other firms

O'Rourke (concrete frame)

Davis Langdon & Everest (QS)

Waterman Gore (services engineer)

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