Global sustainable development consultancy Arup have successfully delivered the fire safety strategy and acoustic engineering design for the transformation of the new Scottish galleries at the National in Edinburgh, which reopened to the public on the 30th of September 2023.

Offering a free experience for everyone to discover, the new Scottish galleries at the National are right in the heart of the National Galleries of Scotland’s flagship site. Twelve new breath-taking spaces showcase 150 years of the very best historic Scottish art like never before.

The fire safety strategy was designed to improve the level of life safety and asset protection within the new gallery space, including a new hybrid ventilation and smoke control system. Arup supported the client and design team during construction and undertook reviews of construction fire safety measures to protect the historic building fabric.

To deliver the fire safety strategy effectively, understanding the unique building structure and design of the new Scottish galleries was paramount. Our experts ensured that a bespoke fire strategy could be implemented into the wider design. The use of both code-based and performance-based design supported Arup in utilising the building’s existing features.

Arup played a pivotal role in not only developing the fire safety strategy but also collaborating closely with the National Galleries of Scotland and Hoskins Architects to enhance the acoustic environment within the new Scottish galleries. The use of finishes and portioning enabled Arup to improve the overall experience for both visitors and staff. This included providing specialist advice and working in conjunction with the National Galleries of Scotland and contractors to assess and mitigate the potential risk of art damage resulting from construction vibration. The dedicated acoustics team at Arup meticulously oversaw the acoustic redesign process, which allowed for a smooth process at all aspects of the acoustic design.

Arup prides itself on developing effective solutions to complex problems and supporting the redevelopment of one of Edinburgh’s most historic buildings was a unique opportunity to demonstrate this. Constraints such as the location of the National (situated above three major rail tunnels, and within a UNESCO World Heritage Site) made the project much more challenging to deliver. Despite this, Arup was able to successfully adapt and assist in the building’s redevelopment.

Previously, Arup supported the National Galleries of Scotland with the South Portico Temporary Works project was awarded ‘Best Specialist Structure Project’ at the 2022 Scottish Structural Awards. This was the most technically complex phase for Arup as the company had to ensure the current building remained intact whilst creating a 6-metre-deep excavation below it. Combining both digital tools and adaptable solutions, multidisciplinary experts worked collaboratively to ensure the temporary works were a success. Today, the new Scottish galleries can be said to be equally well designed.

The new Scottish galleries at the National showcase a range of Scottish art dating back to the 19th and early 20th centuries. Part of the National Galleries of Scotland, the historic National building first opened to the public in 1859 and is home to many world-famous paintings. Arup is proud to have conducted works in this redevelopment – a ‘must see’ for anyone visiting Edinburgh.

With this project we set out to transform the experience of visiting the National and to show the world’s greatest collection of Scottish art with real pride and ambition. With the new Scottish galleries at the National, we have achieved these aims and more. The gallery is more accessible than ever before and there is a stunning new display of 150 years of Scottish art in all its richness and depth. Everyone is welcome to discover a brilliant new experience, free, in the heart of our nation’s capital.

Sir John Leighton

Director-General, National Galleries of Scotland

The gallery project adds to Hoskins Architects' prodigious portfolio of art and heritage projects, which we are only able to realise with the support of our clients and expert colleagues.

The advice from Arup on fire and acoustics was crucial, facilitating creation of the large, uninterrupted spaces in the new Scottish galleries at the National, allowing visitors to flow freely and appreciate the incredible collection.

Thomas Hamilton

Director, Hoskins Architects

The refurbishment of the National gallery in Edinburgh provides a benchmark in transforming national landmarks into truly modern facilities for future generations to enjoy. Arup is honoured to support the expert project team across a multitude of areas, utilising our global expertise in acoustic enhancement, fire safety strategy development and complex risk assessment. The reimagined Scottish galleries have been designed to provide an inclusive, resilient, and sustainable environment for all, using innovation to safeguard the future of the building’s priceless exhibits and heritage features.

Angus Elliott

Senior Engineer, Arup