Tenders Invited for Cultural Development of 15th Century John Knox House in Edinburgh

by Ali Bowden
Director, Edinburgh
City of Literature Trust

25 September 2020

The Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust is calling today for architects and designers to bring their expertise and creativity and enter a competitive Tender process to work with the Trust to create a Literature House for Scotland at John Knox House in Edinburgh.

The development at John Knox House would be part of a wider ambition to enhance the Literary Quarter around the Netherbow area of the Royal Mile and invest in and develop the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Alison Bowden, Director of the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, said:

“We’re excited and pleased to be entering this next stage in our long-term cultural development plan for John Knox House and the Scottish Storytelling Centre. We’re looking for a really excellent and inspiring design team to work with, and people who understand how special the location is and how important these buildings are to Edinburgh.

Once the team is appointed, our priority will be to complete some feasibility work so that in 2021 we will be able to present detailed ideas for the future of John Knox House and the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Working together with the Church of Scotland (who own both buildings), the City of Edinburgh Council, Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland, and the local community, our hope is that we will transform the way Scotland understands its literary story by reinvigorating this magnificent and historic building, and giving it new purpose as Scotland’s first Literature House.”

The Church of Scotland’s Chief Officer, Dave Kendall, welcomed the next stage of the Literature House project and said:

“The proposal to create a Literature House for Scotland at John Knox House has great potential and we welcome the energy and vision which has brought the project to this stage. The production of a high quality feasibility study is a critical step in ensuring that the project is set up for success and I am really looking forward to the next steps in the journey as the project moves forwards starting with the all-important preparatory phase.”

Dr Donald Smith, Chief Executive of TRACS said:

“As the lead programme partner at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, TRACS is delighted to support the Literature House vision for John Knox House. It will bring new profile to the area as a showcase for Scotland's culture, and as a hub for creatives and learners alike, locally, nationally and internationally.”

Cllr Donald Wilson, City of Edinburgh Council Culture and Communities Convener, said:

“We welcome this next step in this ambitious project to further develop this place to discover Edinburgh’s literary heritage and contemporary creativity, and learn more about our incredible storytellers, and writers.”

Cllr Amy McNeese-Mechan, City of Edinburgh Council Culture and Communities Vice-Convener, added:

“In addition to the benefits for literature and a literary quarter in the city, looking to the future role of the historic John Knox House is a positive statement of cultural ambition and intent in these challenging times.”

Ruth Plowden, Chair of Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, said:

“The creation of Scotland’s first Literature House is a bold and fitting development for the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature. Our hope is that this new space will provide a home for our literary story, be a catalyst to develop the wider area, and offer a year-round welcome to everyone in the city.

The Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust is working with RIAS Consultancy to tender for a design team through public procurement. The notice for the Tender can be found here.

City of Literature Trust

The Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust is the development agency for Edinburgh as a UNESCO City of Literature. It works to bring literature to the streets of Edinburgh, involving people in the city’s literary life, bringing organisations to work together collaboratively for greater impact, and sharing Edinburgh’s literary story with the world.

UNESCO City of Literature Designation

In 2004 Edinburgh was designated the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, a permanent title celebrating Edinburgh's status as a literary capital and pioneer in the UNESCO creative cities network, which now has 246 member cities in seven creative artforms. The concept of a City of Literature was devised in Edinburgh by the Trust’s founding members and there are now 39 UNESCO Cities of Literature in the world.

The Literature House

The Literature House will be the home of Edinburgh's literary story.

It will provide a year-round welcome with information, ideas and inspiration to help you connect with Edinburgh as a literary city, and Scotland as a literary nation. This is the place to discover Scotland’s literary heritage and contemporary creativity, and learn more about our incredible books, storytellers, and writers. The House will be a dynamic space where contemporary design and historic architecture meet to create an evolving, immersive reading experience, bringing alive great Scottish writing, past and present.

The Literature House development would also bring investment in the Scottish Storytelling Centre and widen the reach of an award-winning arts venue. The buildings are at the heart of the Literary Quarter, in the Netherbow area of the Royal Mile, a glorious honeycomb of buildings, closes, gardens and streets in Edinburgh’s historic Old Town.

Working with the local community, the ambition is to improve the environmental setting to create a haven where people can connect with Scottish books and literature in traffic-calmed areas that have seating for readers, new artworks, inscriptions and digital interfaces. It would provide a year-round information point for the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, to encourage people to explore the literary city and literary Scotland more widely.

With Thanks to our Funders, Donors and Partners

The Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust gratefully acknowledges the support of the City of Edinburgh Council, the Architectural Heritage Fund, Edinburgh World Heritage, and thanks the donors and partners who make our work possible. The Literature House project is led by Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust in partnership with the Scottish Storytelling Centre and TRACS. It is supported by the City of Edinburgh Council, the Church of Scotland, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University, The Saltire Society, Scottish Book Trust and The List.

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