Studio International

Published 16/11/2004

Museum Tails

Edinburgh has pulled it off again. The National Gallery on the Mound is not only hosting the outstanding Titian exhibition, but it has also supplied an appropriate Venetian ambience - the unmistakable smell of sewage, combined with various aromas from the kitchen. This is most evident in the new Weston Link, which opened earlier in the summer, joining the Royal Scottish Academy building with the long-standing National Gallery. We are told it's a problem of drains, but that it will take a while to remove from the public space and toilets. The scheme of linking the two galleries was completed on time and within budget (unlike the Scottish Parliament, to be reviewed here next month).

The new area works well internally, with state-of-the-art toilets, educational rooms, and a capacious new shop. But externally, the heavy historicist detailing, a kind of over-rusticated basement concept, owes more perhaps to the world of the Aztecs as portrayed in children's books. It is possible that the architects, John Miller and Su Rogers, were tongue-in-cheek on the matter. What is definite is that the heavy weight of Edinburgh’s particular form of historicism has tended to constrain them. In the world of Sandy McCall Smith, this can be oppressive, however 'douce' the delivery.

John Miller and Su Rogers are well known for their clean, updated Modernism, skilfully deployed in the most recent upgrade of Tate Britain. John Miller and his erstwhile partner, Alan Colquhoun, are famous for their superb upgrading of the Whitechapel Gallery in the 1980s. Miller is a core architectural modernist. Once the aromatics have been dispersed at the Mound, unusual and conflicting memories will remain.