National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland Building Department requested a proposal for a new museum of Scottish history and culture in the Old City of Edinburgh, next to the existing Royal Museum. Three options were proposed by Safdie: to extend the linear system of the glazed galleria; to create an internal rotunda on axis with the existing museumís galleria; or to terminate the axis of the existing museum and create a courtyard facing the city as the principal unifying space of the new museum. The latter courtyard option was preferred and developed.

The inner courtyard was at the heart of the museum and was designed as a spiral, unifying element. It contained galleries on one side and a sweep of the semicircular stepped ramps on the other. Above street level the spiral formed a wall of tracery, open to the views of the city, with sun filtering through a skylight. The galleries contained in the two towers provided taller exhibition spaces, and large objects were also to be displayed in the courtyard. The circulation of each gallery level was a loop, returning to the starting point. The visit would begin at the highest level with the Modern Scotland galleries and then descend through time, reaching the geology exhibits at the lower galleries, having an archaeological character by integrating them into the excavation.

The base formed the first three levels of the new building, equal in height to the cornice line of the existing one. It was to be constructed in modules of pre-cast concrete and stone that formed a load-bearing spatial system of marquetry. The upper three floors were a clad with a metal structure including large surfaces of glazing, protected by sun shades. The museum complex accommodated a historical wing, a science wing, and auditorium, a visitorís centre, shops, a cafeteria, a promenade, and a garden. Ultimately Safdie placed second in the competition.