Scottish National Gallery project pushed back to end of 2022

Work to transform the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh is not expected to be completed until the end of 2022 following delays due to coronavirus and the “complex and changing nature” of the construction requirements.

The project is a transformative initiative to create a new space for the nation’s renowned collection of Scottish art.

In February, the National Galleries of Scotland reported the discovery of unexpected defects within the 1970s building which sits beneath the original nineteenth-century National Gallery. These include damp penetration and inadequate drainage in and around the site. A commitment was made to address these issues to ensure the building is fully protected and safeguarded for the future, with an expected completion date around “the end of 2021”.

However, the combined stopping of works due to the lockdown, along with the complex and changing nature of the construction requirements, have led the organisation to further revise the project timescales. Works are now expected to be completed and the new Gardens- Level Galleries open to the public by the end of 2022.  

Director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, Sir John Leighton, said: “We always knew that the Scottish National Gallery Project would be a complex endeavour, but that never diminished our desire to deliver the new space that our visitors deserve. Working underground on a World Heritage Site that comprises an iconic nineteenth-century building with modern additions from the 1970s located above one of Edinburgh’s busiest train tunnels is, of course, challenging.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has added a further layer of complexity, with the closure of the site during lockdown and now the introduction of measures to accommodate social distancing. Any associated additional costs are being worked through diligently.

“While we recognise this delay may be disappointing, we also want to stress that the wait will be worth it. We will deliver a world-class facility for showing Scotland’s distinctive artistic heritage in a whole new light, and at a time when we all hope the COVID-19 pandemic will be receding. We intend for our new galleries to be a focal point for cultural renewal, a place to discover the joy and wonder that art can bring to us all.”

The £22 million redevelopment, which set out with an original £16.8m budget, was delayed for “several months” in March 2017 after the National Galleries of Scotland announced that some aspects of the construction, namely the proposal to build out by an additional five metres into East Princes Street Gardens, were more complex and expensive than originally anticipated.

A revised scheme for the development unveiled two months later scrapped the extension into East Princes Street Gardens and pushed back the entire project a year for further design work.

The first phase of the Scottish National Gallery Project was completed successfully in 2019. This included a new entrance area in East Princes Street Gardens, a new café, refurbished restaurant and shop, an extensive sandstone terrace, and new landscaping and paths to improve access to the gardens and the Galleries.

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