Thursday, January 14, 2010

Adam Smith's Panmure House - Centre of the Scottish Enlightenment

Brian Monteith writes in The Scotsman HERE

See beyond glass to get Smith's house in order.”

“Small buildings like Panmure House, just off the Royal Mile, and the former home of Adam Smith, the founder of modern economics. For the last 50 years, it has, unfortunately, been owned by various public bodies that showed no concern for its history or its preservation.

Its interior was once rich with original features. Now all that remains, other than a sturdy stone hulk with dull and dilapidated magnolia rooms, is one original fireplace – in the attic! Everything else was stripped out as it was used to deliver utilitarian democratic socialism or some other value-free ideal.

Fortunately, Panmure House has new owners. The Edinburgh Business School – a commercial wing of Heriot-Watt University that appropriately teaches market economics – bought it last year with the specific promise that it would return the building to the role of a meeting place to discuss the social, economic and philosophical issues of the day, as Adam Smith used it for.

Smith would regularly have the great minds of Scotland's Enlightenment round for Sunday lunch and a blether, and what better than to return the house to such a use? Not least as it is only a short hop from a parliament badly in need of some clear and original thinking.

However, like so many other charming buildings of its size, turning it into a public building that meets all the regulations of today requires a lift, fire escapes and other physical intrusions that make renovation expensive and difficult to comply with planning regulations.

It would be a pity, and ironic, if Smith's house could not be used for the sort of discussions he used to hold in it, just because of modern-day bureaucracy.

To resolve the difficulties – mainly caused by a lack of space – the architects have come up with a glass atrium that sits outside the façade of the building, providing a meeting space and stairs. Although some might consider this nothing more than a glass box, it is in fact an intelligent way out of the conundrum……

Needless to say Historic Scotland – commonly known as Hysterical Scotland amongst many professionals – is objecting to anything that does not use old materials or is not a faux bolt-on. The only alternative is to turn the house into a private home, but a private domestic owner would not be obliged to provide public access, certainly not every day”

Bought two years ago it has taken this long to get into the decision process with the city planners abotu the renovation of Adam Smith's Panmure House.

No public money is involved. Edinburgh Business School is self-funded from the educational provision it provides. (I am just finishing ome last minute post-graduate exam papers - it'd my old day-job before retirement in 2005).

Follow the link for more news.



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