The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Buildings at risk

Scottish Widows Headquarters, Edinburgh

Status: Partial demolition approved (2023)

Scottish Widows headquarters, Edinburgh – Spence, Glover & Ferguson (1972-76)

Scottish Widows headquarters, Edinburgh – Spence, Glover & Ferguson (1972-76)

Risk: Total Demolition

Built in 1972–76 by the practice of Sir Basil Spence, Glover and Ferguson, the Scottish Widows head offices building received the RIBA Award for Scotland in 1977 and was Category A listed by Historic Environment Scotland in 2006 as a ‘a major achievement of international status for Spence and his partners’.

This is an extremely high quality modernist building, with double skinned curtain–wall glazing with a brown solar glass exterior, complimented by mullions of manganese bronze, base courses of riven York stone, and pilotis of exposed concrete carrying thebuilding over an ornamental pool – akin to Spence’s work at the University of Sussex and the British Embassy in Rome. The six acre site was laid out by Dame Sylvia Crowe, the leading landscape architect of the time.

Dramatically situated beneath Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park and Salisbury Crags, the design of the building cleverly references the basalt-heavy local geology in its interlocking hexagonal blocks, while conforming to the strict height restrictions of views both to and from the hills of the Royal Park. The site also sits within the Edinburgh South Side Conservation Area, facing the Royal Commonwealth Pool by Robert Matthew Johnson Marshall (1967–69 – also Category A listed) on one side, with traditional 19th century stone tenements on the other.

Scottish Widows vacated their purpose built HQ in Autumn 2020 after 45 years, the building owners are now proposing a £100m office and residential redevelopment of the site, which would see almost half of the existing listed building and landscape lost. C20 has strongly objected to the proposals and argued the building is flexible enough to be adapted to suit multiple new uses, without the need for extensive demolition.

How to help: Object to the planning application for Scottish Widows (Ref. 22/04768/LBC) by writing to Edinburgh Council at and copying

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