The Tower

Concrete Antenna is the first commission for Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop’s landmark tower, designed by local architects Sutherland Hussey Harris. Here Project Director David McKenna shares a few words about the tower which forms one part of the sculpture workshop’s new Creative Laboratories development:

“The Creative Laboratories were built as an extension to the Bill Scott Sculpture Centre as an external working space and public face for Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. Construction was funded by a private individual through the Arts Funding Prize for Edinburgh administered by Foundation Scotland.

Twelve external sculpture bays divided by concrete piers flank two sides of a sunken courtyard surrounded by trees, inspired by the Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto. A public cafe and internal exhibition space form the remaining two sides. This adjoins a new public route from street level down into an abandoned railway cutting – now a forming a key component of Edinburgh’s green link cycle network.

A reference to the sites industrial past, the concrete structure is clad in brick and metal screens that allow glimpses into the courtyard, revealing the process of making to the public and encouraging passersby to explore within.

The sequence is completed with a 28m tall campanile, constructed using reinforced-in-situ concrete with a surrounding skin of clay brick. It is a structure without a function in the conventional sense but acts as both a gateway and as a beacon, visible to the wider city beyond.

Ordinarily we have a clear idea of how a building will be occupied but in this case the role of the tower is to occupy a place in the Edinburgh skyline and to signal the presence of ESW as an illuminated structure against the industrial landscape of Leith docks. The occupation of the resultant space, lit from above and open to the elements but visually separated from its immediate context, is left to be interpreted by visiting artists.

It seems appropriate that this first work, Concrete Antenna, makes the reverse connection, and exploits the unusual intimacy and acoustics of the tower, treating it as a collector for fragments of sound from the city.”