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First look at £22m National Gallery transformation

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Work has started in East Princes Street Gardens as transformation of the Scottish National Gallery continues.

The vision for the project, which got underway in October 2018, has been revealed in a new fly through animation which has been released to coincide with this stage of work.

The £22m project, which will create a new home for the world’s greatest collection of Scottish art, began in October 2018. It will transform former office, storage and display spaces into a new set of galleries that, for the first time, will be entered directly from the adjacent East Princes Street Gardens. They will showcase the National Galleries of Scotland’s amazingly rich collection of historic Scottish art, which contains masterpieces by Henry Raeburn, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Scottish Colourists as well as giving direct access to the rest of the SNG’s international collection. The project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Scottish Government.

From mid-January, work starts on the new landscaping which includes the widening of existing steps and the construction of a new accessible path in the Gardens, which will help those with mobility impairments, wheelchairs and prams. The Galleries’ plans, which were approved after a lengthy consultation with City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) and other bodies, address the long-standing inadequacy of accessible routes in this area; without this new path, the East Gardens would remain accessible only via steep gradients or stairs.

During this phase of work the NGS will also be planting 22 new trees in East Princes Street Gardens with species chosen to complement existing trees in the wider gardens. These trees will be between 4.5 metres and 6 metres in height. They will replace 52 trees removed in autumn 2018 to enable the reshaping of an embankment that is necessary for the new accessible path.

The new trees are depicted in the new animated fly through, and landscape architects and other professional organisations supporting the project have advised and verified on their depiction, including their size and species. NGS is also in discussion with the CEC and Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust about the planting of additional trees in other locations in the city.

The main Gallery shop and The Scottish Café & Restaurant will also temporarily close until spring 2019. Alternative facilities – including a souvenir shop inside the Gallery and the shop on Princes Street will be available as normal – as well as a new Espresso café opening at the SNG entrance on the Mound in early 2019.

Also due to start in this phase is the installation of a much larger lift and stairwell at the south end of the SNG, which will connect with the new gallery spaces and radically improve the way the whole building is accessed by visitors. While construction work continues on the stairwell, there will be some temporary disruption with no lift access to some rooms where we show 18th, 19th and early 20th Century Art, including Scottish Art, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.

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