Exploring Edinburgh: The National Museum Of Scotland

A perfect blend of the old and the new, The National Museum of Scotland is not a site to miss in the city of Edinburgh
Inside the National Museum of Scotland
Inside the National Museum of Scotland Shutterstock

The National Museum of Scotland, located in Edinburgh, is a tribute to Scotland's diverse and fascinating history and culture. The museum's architecture combines old and new styles, seamlessly blending different eras and designs. It is situated in the heart of the city, making it easily accessible to visitors.

The Museum

The details are quirky, post modern and unexpected
The details are quirky, post modern and unexpectedAmit Khanna

As you approach the museum, you can't help but notice the striking contrast between the Victorian-era building and the modern sandstone structure that was added during the museum's extensive renovation in the early 21st century. The original building, which was designed by the architect Francis Fowke, was inaugurated in 1866 and served as a symbol of Scotland's growing sense of national identity during the Victorian era.

The museum's Victorian section is a magnificent illustration of the Scottish Baronial style, which is characterised by its turrets, battlements, and intricate detailing. The façade is adorned with sculptures and reliefs depicting historical figures and scenes, inviting visitors to enter a bygone era. As you enter, the grandeur of Victorian architecture surrounds you, setting the stage for a journey through time.

The difference between the old building and the modern extension, the Grand Gallery, is quite noticeable. The Grand Gallery was designed by the famous architects Gordon Benson and Alan Forsyth. The new addition blends perfectly with the historic structure while adding a contemporary touch. The exterior of the Grand Gallery is a combination of geometric shapes and clean lines, covered in sandstone that matches the existing building's material, creating a sense of continuity.

The Highlights

Light comes in from above.
Light comes in from above.Amit Khanna

The modern architecture boasts a glass façade that spans the entire length of the Grand Gallery. This transparent wall floods the space with natural light and provides panoramic views of the city, including the iconic Edinburgh Castle perched on Castle Rock. The rooftop terrace is a perfect example of the blend of old and new, where visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the city skyline while surrounded by the timeless beauty of Victorian architecture.

As you enter the Grand Gallery, you'll be welcomed by a spacious area that acts as a central hub, connecting various galleries and exhibits. The architects have given importance to openness and fluidity, which creates an inviting atmosphere, encouraging visitors to explore and discover. The use of materials such as oak and bronze adds warmth to the contemporary design, creating a harmonious balance between tradition and modernity.

The museum's architecture is particularly captivating due to its innovative use of light. The architects have skillfully integrated skylights and strategically placed windows to illuminate the exhibits, creating a dynamic interplay between light and shadow. This enhances the visual appeal of the space and serves a functional purpose by providing an ideal environment for preserving delicate artefacts.

The Railway Exhibit
The Railway ExhibitAmit Khanna

As you explore the museum, you'll come across various galleries with unique architectural styles. For instance, the Scottish Galleries are inspired by mediaeval architecture, featuring dark wood panelling and vaulted ceilings. On the other hand, the Chambers Street Gallery is bright and airy, with plenty of natural light. The architecture of each gallery is carefully designed to complement the exhibits on display, creating a seamless and immersive experience for visitors. The attention to detail in the design ensures that the space enhances the storytelling of each exhibit, making it easier for visitors to understand and appreciate the artefacts on display.

Attention To Accessibility

The museum is strongly committed to accessibility, evident in its architecture. The building has been designed to include ramps, elevators, and spacious galleries, making it easy for visitors of all abilities to navigate the space comfortably. The architects have done an excellent job of integrating modern accessibility features into the historic structure, demonstrating a thoughtful approach to inclusivity without compromising the integrity of the original design.

Jackie Stewart’s Formula One Racing Car
Jackie Stewart’s Formula One Racing CarAmit Khanna

Upon reaching the roof terrace, the architectural ensemble's full brilliance unfolds before you. The panoramic views of Edinburgh, framed by the historical and contemporary elements of the museum, offer a visual feast that is truly breathtaking. The architects' ability to create a space that not only houses a diverse collection of artefacts but also serves as a platform for experiencing the city's beauty is commendable.

Conclusively, the National Museum of Scotland is a fascinating combination of architectural styles that narrates a story as diverse and rich as its exhibits. The seamless fusion of Victorian grandeur with contemporary elegance offers visitors a distinctive and unforgettable experience. The museum's architecture links the past and the present, welcoming everyone to embark on a journey through Scotland's history and culture.

The Information

Entry Fee: Admission to the museum is free.

Timings: 10:30 am to 4:30 pm

Address: Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF

For more information, visit their website.

Amit Khanna is an architect and urbanist who merges architecture, construction, and sustainability. He is also a published author and photographer.

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