Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


High School Yards project update

Work is progressing well, with new gates being manufactured out of traditional wrought iron.

May 29, 2014

The project will see the set of steps opened to public for the first time in over 10 years, with a series of improvements and a new art installation from Callum Innes. The City of Edinburgh Council, the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh World Heritage are jointly funding the work.

New wrought iron gates have been commissioned for the steps, a traditional material which is no longer produced. Recycled iron, often from old ships anchors, is now used, enabling the old techniques to be kept alive. The gates have been carefully designed to match and compliment the originals.

Wrought iron is distinct from modern materials such as mild steel or pure iron in that it incorporates impurities, mainly strands of glass, in its manufacture. This gives it a great resistance to corrosion, making it easy to maintain by simply painting regularly, and ensures that fine detail in the design is not obscured.

Jeremy Bowman of Topp & Co. comments: “The processes require a skilled eye to make sure each item is in alignment with the next. For example the square holes in the horizontal rails are swelled out by punching the heated up bar with various sized chisels. Each hole has to align perfectly with the other rails to allow the bars to slide into place and each swelling to be the same size. Whereas forming these rails using a laser or water jet profiling machine gives sharp edges but has little character to it."

Stone repairs are underway along with the repointing of many joints. A new red sandstone has been sourced to replace cracked or structurally unsound stonework, revealed when coats of cement were removed.

Lighting contractors have been appointed, who will bring to life Callum Innes’ innovative art work. As people climb the steps their movement will be captured by an infrared camera and their silhouette projected onto a large LED mesh screen. Innes has also worked with young people from nearby Panmure St Ann’s Centre, to create short film clips of silhouetted movement, which will play on a loop if no one is using the steps.

A Police Box which was situated at bottom of the steps has also been moved around the corner, opening up the steps and allowing them to dry out. The project is due to be completed in August.

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