Boot manufacturer transforms into Edinburgh print-making studio

Page Park Print Studio Empty
The industrial heritage of the former rubber factory has been celebrated by architects Page / Park in their redevelopment of the industrial site for Edinburgh Printmakers. Pictured here, the main print studio empty.
(Image credit: Page / Park)

A derelict industrial building in the Scottish capital has been redeveloped by Page \ Park architects for the newly expanded print-making studio Edinburgh Printmakers. From repurposed materials, exposed structures and considered interventions, the design finds a balance between preservation, adaptation and new ideas – all preparing the institution for a whole new chapter of creativity and production.

As the only surviving structure of the 19th-century Castle Mills industrial complex, the building has a fascinating history that was worth celebrating. It was once the headquarters of the North British Rubber Company (NBRC) – known as the birthplace of the Hunter welly boot, where over three thousand people were employed at its height and mills worked around the clock to supply rubber boots for the army during the First World War.

In an act of respect, the architects used the vast original building as a template from which to build on – carefully extending and creating within it new spaces for two galleries, a shop, café, education space, staff offices, environmentally controlled archives and eight creative industries units – as well as a large print studio that forms the core of the Edinburgh Printmakers activity.

Edinburgh Printmakers - new entrance

(Image credit: Jim Stephenson)

In fact, many parts were left as untouched as possible – the print-making studio takes pride of place in the triple-height former joinery workshop of the NBRC where the original muscular cast iron structure and timber trusses have been exposed, and historic joist pockets and traces of paint have been retained.

Materials found on site were repurposed or redesigned – old glazed bricks discovered in the basement now serve as the café servery counter, and tables have been built of salvaged timber doors. In these details, history comes to life again.

A series of subtle adaptations follow the spirit of the industrial design, yet dramatically improve the building for its new function. The addition of a new central courtyard brings people together at the heart of the design, while a new circulation strategy helps people to navigate, allowing them to explore the whole structure.

Cafe at the Edinburgh Printmakers

(Image credit: Jim Stephenson)

Meanwhile some ‘precise interventions’ were also necessary, and symbolic, for the Edinburgh Printmakers’ new chapter – and to mark the start of a new life for the NBRC building. The entrance, for example, needed a bold new design to attract people in, revealing the café and shop to the street.

No public institution is complete these days without a tantalising art commission. Here, Page \ Park worked in collaboration with visual artist Calum Colvin to design the ‘EPscope’ – a synthesis of a periscope and kaleidoscope made up of images of products made by the rubber company that create a collision of patterns across the space. 

The old building has been cleaned up, and a new extension added

The old building has been cleaned up, and a new extension added. 

(Image credit: Jim Stephenson )

Jimstephenson Studio Kitchen

The kitchen for the print-making studio workers

(Image credit: Jim Stephenson)

Jimstephenson Print Studio

The print studio

(Image credit: Jim Stephenson)

Cafe

The cafe with salvaged brick servery

(Image credit: Page / Park)

Detail of the stairs with new and old materials

Detail of the stairs with new and old materials

(Image credit: Jim Stephenson)

The shop display

The shop display

(Image credit: Jim Stephenson)

The shop display

The shop display

(Image credit:  Jim Stephenson)

The exhibition space

The gallery

(Image credit: Page / Park)

Exterior of the building with the extension

Exterior of the building with the extension.

(Image credit: Park / Park)

INFORMATION

For more information, visit the Page / Park website (opens in new tab)

Harriet Thorpe is a writer, journalist and editor covering architecture, design and culture, with particular interest in sustainability, 20th-century architecture and community. After studying History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Journalism at City University in London, she developed her interest in architecture working at Wallpaper* magazine and today contributes to Wallpaper*, The World of Interiors and Icon magazine, amongst other titles. She is author of The Sustainable City (2022, Hoxton Mini Press), a book about sustainable architecture in London, and the Modern Cambridge Map (2023, Blue Crow Media), a map of 20th-century architecture in Cambridge, the city where she grew up.