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Dovecot Studios


(The Edinburgh Tapestry Company)

A tapestry workshop and exhibition space located in the former Infirmary Street Baths in central Edinburgh, the Dovecot Studios (or Edinburgh Tapestry Company) was established in 1912 by John Crichton-Stuart, the 4th Marquess of Bute (1881 - 1947) and a noted conservationist, to weave tapestries to suit historical properties. The first weavers came from Merton Abbey workshops and the studio still keeps faith with the ideals of the Arts and Crafts Movement and the traditions of William Morris.

In 2008, they found a permanent home following a £5 million refurbishment of the B-listed Victorian swimming pool, built on the site of Edinburgh's first Royal Infirmary.

The studio was originally established in Dovecot Road in Corstorphine, taking its name from the nearby 16th-century doocot, and operated there until 2001 when the 7th Marquis of Bute announced his family could no longer support their work. Philanthropist businessman Alastair Salvesen stepped in and the studio found a temporary home in an annexe of Donaldson's College in West Coates, while Salvesen financed the refurbishment of the empty building in Infirmary Street.

The swimming baths were built between 1885 and 1887 by Edinburgh City Architect Robert Morham (1839 - 1912) with a rough ashlar facade in an Italianate style. The ladies pool had lain roofless since a fire in the 1950s but the remainder of the building continued as a swimming centre until it closed in 1995 when the city authorities, who were its owners, refused to make necessary repairs. The building lay empty until purchased by Dovecot Studios in 2007. Architect Malcolm Fraser removed the old pools and has created two spacious galleries, while retaining features such as the elegantly-arched roof timbers supported on cast-iron columns. Fraser had been responsible for other iconic buildings in the Old Town of Edinburgh, including Dance Base and the Scottish Poetry Library, and the Infirmary Street facade has been enhanced with his signature geometric boxes.

The studio has gained an international reputation, working with artists such as Elizabeth Blackadder, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi and Frank Stella. It has undertaken commissions for numerous notable clients over the years, including Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (1900 - 2002); PepsiCo Headquarters, New York; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London; IBM Headquarters, New York; London Stock Exchange; King Khaled International Airport, Saudi Arabia.

The studio intends to institute a programme of apprenticeships to develop tapestry weaving skills, together with a wider educational programme of tours, lectures and practical classes. A gallery walkway will allow visitors to see work in progress from above.

The building also includes rentable office space and five new duplex apartments, which will help fund the project.


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