Community and Placemaking for the Volume Housebuilders

A Hand from the Planners

The site forms part of the former Princess Margaret Rose Hospital and offers a gentle, south-facing slope on the southern edge of Edinburgh, with wonderful views out to the Pentland Hills. On this part of the wider site – all bought by Taylor Woodrow Developments – sat a fine, listed, modernist hospital wing, by Morris and Steedman, empty and damaged by fire. MFA owe their appointment to the Planners’ insistence that any new development on the listed building’s site should have ambitions to achieve the same quality.

Sunshine and Gathering

The southerly aspect and fine views are exploited by grouping the 17 terraced houses around short Mews along the slope, with a single block of 6 flats at its top, against a wee, sheltering wood of Scots Pine.

All gardens and living spaces face south, maximising sunshine in and views out to the Pentland Hills, with front doors and garages facing north. Living rooms have sheltered, inset balconies, and are mostly on the upper floors with long views out towards the hills, while ground floor family rooms give on to the sunny gardens. Central stairs are top-lit and public spaces open-plan.

Mews are sheltered and neighbourly, leading out to a village green at the community’s heart, sunshine and gathering articulating all.

Princess Gate housing, Edinburgh, interior looking through from stairwell to balcony

Location / Fairmilehead, Edinburgh

Client / Taylor Woodrow Developments Ltd/Bryant Homes

Architect / Malcolm Fraser Architects

Completion / December 2006

Scope / 17 terraced, 2 storey homes and 6 flats, all for sale

Brief & Construction / Residential replacement for the demolition of a listed and fire-damaged modernist hospital wing

Tons of light here even on the greyest of days, and the sun streams in, down the lightwell too.
Princess Gate
Princess Gate housing, Edinburgh. View from communal green space

Value and Density

The development strongly contrasts with the standard layouts which neighbour it. It focusses on issues of community, landscape and open space, with children regularly playing on its green, and the virtues and value of the view, none of which feature in the neighbouring layouts.

Such virtues have resulted in high re-sale values and a tightly-integrated community with their own residents’ association. And besides these extras, Princess Gate is around twice as dense as its neighbours, providing better urban use of land and a tighter community with, as a result, more convenient access to services and, where land is expensive, as it is here, a consequent better return for its developers.


Dark-stained timber first floors (of timber frame construction) sit above a white-harled masonry base: while form may not be the first concern it is a pleasure to note that not only does the development share Morris and Steedman’s modernist principles of light and view but that, in arranging this very different building-type, their hospital wing’s language of heavy, white base and lightweight, dark upper, works.

Princess Gate housing, Edinburgh. View of development with Pentlands behind
Princess Gate housing, Edinburgh, view from the air. Malcolm Fraser Architects

Main Contractor / Client

MFA Team / Neil Mochrie, Miriam Kelly, Malcolm Fraser

Sketch 001
Morris and Steedman wing - Princess Margaret Rose Hospital
Princess Margaret Rose Hospital, Edinburgh: the wing designed by Morris & Steedman (structural engineer Blyth&Blyth, lead engineer Bill Fraser – Malcolm Fraser’s father), which occupied the land at Princess Gate, before it was damaged by fire.

Principal Awards

Edinburgh Architectural Association, 2008

Building of the Year

Homes for Scotland, 2008

Designing Places, Finalist

Scottish Design Award, 2007


Roses Design Awards, 2007


RIAS, 2007

Doolan Award for Architecture

Saltire Society Housing Design Award, 2007



Keith Hunter