Quartermile in Scotland, one of the rejuvenation schemes, which is a significant example of city centre development, has an eight-hectare land with nine listed buildings that lie within the radius of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, creating a mixed-use urban community. The development region lies between the historic Old Town and The Meadows. “This scheme for its renewal extends the practice’s investigations into the creation of sustainable, mixed-use urban communities; continuing themes first explored in schemes such as the King’s Cross and Duisburg Inner Harbour masterplans” (Foster + Partners, 2019).

Quartermile Development by Foster + Partners - Sheet1
Quartermile arial view_©Foster + Partners

The major pick-up line for the development project was making pedestrians the protagonist of the story so that the whole project could revolve around them and also open up the site to create connected and free spaces in the city centre which were previously closed from the past many years. By inculcating landscaped areas connecting the pedestrian network, they aimed at making these spaces an integral part of the city. The Quartermile Development caters to office spaces, housing, a five-star hotel, cafes, shops, and restaurants. The housing sector is zoned at the quieter peripheries of the development region; on the other hand, offices and shops are zoned at the centre.

Quartermile Development by Foster + Partners - Sheet2
Showing the socializing spaces in quartermile_©Foster+ Partners

The commercial spaces are designed on such a concept that they form a piazza with colonnades on all three sides, giving a dramatic look with an exposed glass lift. “The first phases of the development include seven residential buildings, a hotel, an underground car park, and Number One Quartermile, a new office building with dramatic views of Edinburgh Castle that provides the striking gateway to the development” (Foster + Partners, 2019). On Completion, the Quartermile will provide over 900 apartments, 30,000 sq.m. of Grade A office accommodation, 10,000 sq.m. of retail and leisure space, and 7 acres (2.8 ha) of open areas.

The major challenges in the Quartermile Development were to softly immerse the new development in the historic city centre context. “New construction is combined with the selective refurbishment of the historic buildings, with the new woven carefully into the grain of the old” (Foster + Partners, 2019). To meet this challenge, The Fosters + Partners took up a simple approach of implementing the unifying environment while respecting the city centre characteristics such as trees that have been planted throughout the project (including the hedgerows, lawns, and groundcover planting), providing a link between this landscape and the Meadows.

Quartermile Development by Foster + Partners - Sheet3
Pedestrian friendly network_©Foster+ Partners

Two of the major projects of the development are explained below:


The Quartermile’s Old Surgical Hospital is one of the disused buildings that were planned to be converted into a university hub for business, policy, and society. In the process, the A-listed Surgical Hospital is sensitively restored, keeping in mind its former architecture and spaces. The former Hospital was built in 1879 by the architect David Bryce and his team. Quartermile Developments managing director, Paul Curran, added: “This is an excellent opportunity for Quartermile and the city. The new University development will integrate Quartermile with one of the world’s most highly regarded academic institutions.”


The housing in the quartermile development is a dense social housing designed by Richard Murphy Architects. The challenge was to accommodate the increased number of housings after the update in the master plan by Foster+ Partners. The concept of this building falls on the line that even when the building is so condensed, it provides each of its users with social and communal spaces compensating for the large density of the building. The building has a single entrance leading to a courtyard with lift and stair towers at each corner. To balance the less amount of common spaces, most of the flats are designed to have roof terraces or corner balconies. The exteriors are cladded with mottled grey terracotta tiles depicting the hard exterior shell with semi-private soft interiors depicted by the individual roof terraces and balconies.

Quartermile Development by Foster + Partners - Sheet4
Quartermile Housing_©https://www.richardmurphyarchitects.com/viewItem.php?id=2482

Quartermile has now become an established, vibrant quarter in the south of Edinburgh‘s City Centre. It has become a distinctive place for people to work, shop, explore and live within. It is said that when a space is designed around the users, then by default, the liveability of that space increases. Similarly, the Quartermile project is majorly designed around its protagonist, i.e., the pedestrians. Due to this reason, it is not only a place for living, commuting, and office spaces but also a space where people can share ideas, where people could interact, where people could learn intellectually, and where people could socialize while strolling down the lanes. Thus, the streets of this development would have lived in it; they would grow organically in their liveability index.

Thus, Quartermile development sets a benchmark for all other mixed-used development in the near future. It sets a good example of how to develop the architecture around the user’s needs while taking care of all the tangible and intangible aspects of the project.

View of Sky_©Pygmalion Karatzas


  • Foster + Partners. (2019). Quartermile Development. Foster + Partners.

Available at: https://www.fosterandpartners.com/projects/quartermile-development/#/  

  •    Divisare. (2017). Foster + Partners Quartermile Development. Divisare.

Available at: https://divisare.com/projects/366722-foster-partners-pygmalion-karatzas-quartermile-redevelopment [ Accessed on: 20 September, 2017].

  •    Open. (2016). Quartermile. Open. Available at: https://op-en.co.uk/projects/quartermile
  •    Welch, Adrian. (2017). Quartermile Edinburgh Property: Flats, Buildings. Edinburgh Architecture. Available at: https://www.edinburgharchitecture.co.uk/Quartermile [Accessed on: 23 January,2017].

Pratishtha is an architecture graduate, for her architecture is not just about building structures, it's about how others experience those structures. Her belief is that architects are the ones who could invent different ways to choreograph user experience and convey their intent either through loud writing or silent aura of their design.