April 15, 2024

Appleton Tower at the University of Edinburgh, UK


Written by Kelsey F.

Last Update: February 2, 2024.

| Overview | History | Construction | Design | Improvements |Value |

1. Overview:

Appleton Tower is a highlight of the George Square Complex at the University of Edinburgh. The Tower builds in 1963. The Tower houses five cutting-edge lecture halls with a capacity for 200–300 students apiece. It also features a teaching studio, seminar rooms, and a sizable concourse area.

Appleton Tower is situated between Potterrow, Crichton Street, and Windmill Street. It is a landmark structure at the University of Edinburgh Central Area Campus.

The concourse area of the Appleton Tower is well adapted for exhibitions and poster displays, making it a perfect location for presentations and lectures as well as a break-out area for other activities taking place nearby in the George Square neighborhood.

A significant portion of Georgian Edinburgh was destroyed when the University was established. The George Square neighborhood in 1960 sparked accusations of cultural vandalism. In a construction that would have encompassed a large portion of the South Side, the Appleton Tower was meant to be the first stage of the projected interconnected Fundamental Science buildings. Physicist Sir Edward Appleton, the Principal who oversaw the transformation of the George Square redevelopment from vision to tangible reality, was honored posthumously with the naming of the Tower.

The George Square plan was the subject of strong support and opposition in the post-war time and it became a topic of national discussion.

2. History of Appleton Tower:

In appreciation of Samuel Appleton’s $10,000 donation to the newly established college library, the neighborhood was given the name of the tower. John F. Johnston, the area’s first citizen, served as president when Appleton was initially founded as a village in 1853 and as a city in 1857. (Amos Storey, Mayor).

Appleton Tower, a contentious structure since its start, received a full renovation in 2016–17 and won the 2018 RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) Awards for “Design Through Innovation.”

When James Brown, a designer, conceived the square in 1766, it was the city’s most ambitious new development project to date. It served as the original outpost outside the old city walls and as a model for the New Town. It quickly rose to prominence as a desirable place. Sir Walter Scott, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the sportsman Eric Liddell are just a few of its well-known residents.

The University of Edinburgh started to acquire more houses in the square starting in 1914, and by the 1940s it had acquired all of it. Then, in 1949, a contentious proposal for significant development was hatched that called for demolishing a sizable portion of the square. The development went through despite a significant public protest, but its destruction served as a turning point in how the public perceived the situation facing Edinburgh’s ancient structures. The western side of the plaza was preserved, and the remains of numerous destroyed homes were eventually used to restore Georgian New Town structures.

As a result of Appleton’s directive, science undergraduates are required to spend their first year on the campus in the city center. They are also encouraged to enroll in humanities courses, participate in student organizations and extracurricular activities, and take humanities courses to foster interaction between students and faculty from various faculties. Following Appleton’s passing in 1965, the Alan Reiach-designed “Fundamental Science Building” was appropriately named for the Principal.

3. Construction of Appleton Tower:

Entrance Appleton Tower

Originally, the structure had a platform with several amenities and seven stories of laboratory space atop a double-height circulation hall. On its southern flank is an addition with five lecture halls. The twin buildings, DHT (Arts) and Appleton (Sciences), which now dominate the University’s Central area, are a symbolic representation of Appleton’s vision for the unification of the arts and sciences.

The Central area of the University was made possible by the construction of Appleton Tower. It contains scientific classes for first-year students. With a total capacity of 1,200 students, it features five lecture halls in addition to several smaller seminar and tutorial rooms. Since King’s Buildings had developed into more modern facilities at the turn of the 20th century, the teaching laboratories that had once been placed on the upper levels had become outmoded. The School of Informatics today largely uses the upper floors as open-access study areas, workspaces, and small classrooms.

The structure, which was built in the 1960s as an important determinant of the George Square Masterplan, offers teaching facilities for students pursuing degrees in science and technology.

The front of the building was determined to be aging and performing poorly after an evaluation in 2008. As a result, the University hired CCG Specialist Building Services (SBS) to complete extensive upgrade work that included replacing the building’s deteriorating façade to improve the building’s environmental performance through the use of a combination of both vertical and horizontal louvers incorporated with improved EWI.

4. Design of Appleton Tower:

The structure, designed by Alan Reiach, Eric Hall, and Partners, had amenities on its pedestal and seven stories of laboratory space that were located above a double-height circulation concourse. On its southern flank is a block with five lecture halls covered with pebble-imbedded slabs and conglomerate concrete.

With the twin towers of David Hume (for the arts, now known as 40 George Square), and Appleton (for the sciences), dominating the University’s Central area, the tower’s completion in 1966 formed a symbolic representation of Appleton’s goal for the unification of the arts and sciences.

At this point, it was planned to connect an adjacent teaching facility for east George Square with a mathematics and physics building for the “car park site” on north Crichton Street. The James Clerk Maxwell Building is the consequence of the relocation of the later project to King’s Buildings in the 1960s; the Dental Hospital and School, the site’s successor project, was abandoned for lack of funds. The Tower was left alone and without a formal entrance, even though this had been planned as a connection to more buildings.

To enable the teaching of first-year scientific students in the university’s Central region, Appleton Tower was constructed. It features five lecture halls that can hold 1,200 students each, as well as several smaller seminar and tutorial rooms. When King’s Buildings developed more advanced capabilities, the upper floors’ initial role as teaching laboratories was rendered obsolete by the 20th century. The School of Informatics today largely uses the upper floors as open-access study areas, offices, and small classrooms.

5. Improvements from 2006 to 2017:

The School of Informatics has occupied three floors (3-5) of the tower since the Edinburgh Cowgate fire (December 2002). The floors had undergone extensive renovations to create a contemporary environment for teaching and research. In the summer of 2006, the five lecture halls and teaching areas on the ground and first levels underwent renovation. In 2007, the basement and floors 6 through 8 had similar work.

The Scottish weather has wreaked havoc on the exterior pre-cast concrete slabs with a mosaic decorative cladding of the Tower. However, in contrast to rumors, the building has been deemed sound. Recladding the façade is how the University intends to finish the repair. A planning application was submitted in late 2013 and was accepted in January 2014.

The University also decided to redesign the podium, make a suitable entrance, and incorporate the Tower into the Southside of Edinburgh’s surroundings. The renovation was finished on November 7, 2017.

The University was left with a humiliating gap site, which stayed as an open, windswept parking lot for more than 40 years before the development of the Informatics Forum, even though the Fundamental Science Buildings were not yet finished due to the preparatory demolition of Bristo Street to create the adjacent Crichton Street site.

6. Value:

The redesign of Appleton Tower is now complete, and it won’t be long before the shape of the university structure more accurately captures the breathtaking vistas of Edinburgh from its rooftop. The update, when combined with upgrades to the interior areas, satisfies the daily demands and goals of the 2000 personnel and students that use it. After completion, the project received an RICS award, highlighting the positive effects of the renovation on the city and university life.