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no longer viable

Hidden Door Arts Festival
-June 2023

This site-specific installation was developed for Hidden Door Arts Festival in the sub-basement of the disused Scottish Widows building at 15 Dalkeith Road. The iconic hexagon-shaped building is said to mimic the surrounding geology in Edinburgh, however there is little evidence that the architects in the 1970s were influenced by this. Instead it seems that their main source of inspiration was the futuristic design of ‘BP-Haus’ in Hamburg where the shape of butane (reflecting their function as a petrochemical company) was used to inform the hexagonal building, carpet tiles, canteen trays, lighting, planters, and more. Scottish Widows life insurance and pensions company left the building in 2020 - it has the ‘lowest possible Environmental Performance rating’ and ‘fails many of the modern requirements for energy and office welfare’ - it is ‘no longer viable’.

In the sub-basement of the complex, plastic containers have been customised to collect leaks from various obsolete tanks and pipes, creating pools of wetness. In the 1970s, when the site on Dalkeith Road was under construction, borehole samples were taken to assess ground conditions and soil composition (to determine the feasibility of the project). In a layer of thin green siltstone, ostracod (also known as seed shrimps) fossils were found. These tiny crustaceans, usually around 1mm in size, are abundant anywhere that is wet (from hot springs, within the water table, semi-terrestrial environments, fresh and marine waters including the deep sea, small temporary ponds and more) and date back to 485 to 443 million years ago. Some living species have been used as pollution bioindicators as they are highly sensitive to environmental changes. In the Scottish Widows office complex, these digitally enlarged soap-cast substitutes have soaked in the moisture from the cold, damp sub-basement and sweat to form puddles under the duct-covering-turned-sieve below.


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