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McEwan Hall Restoration

By 31st October 2017Case Studies, Education

© McAteer Photograph

It takes a world-class contractor to work in such an historic and magnificent building as the McEwan Hall so; needless to say, we were delighted to win the competitive tender to help restore one of the most prestigious buildings in the University of Edinburgh’s estate.  The hall was gifted to the university in 1897 by William McEwan (MP and brewer) who, we think, would be proud today of the completed restoration project.

Courtesy of its magnificent Italian Renaissance architecture and frescoed interior, McEwan Hall is home to the university’s graduation ceremonies and it also provides a spectacular venue for events during Edinburgh’s world-famous Festival.




The enhanced facilities restore the McEwan Hall to its iconic status as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the university’s property portfolio and open up this spectacular venue for wider public use. 



Working in a building with centuries of history brings many challenges, not least when the architecture is uniquely D-shaped and the internal fabric and equipment are considered national treasures!  That is when having decades of project management experience working in sensitive environments and historic sites really differentiates the Arthur McKay team. For every challenge emerging, our site team were able to find solutions, ensuring they were overcome quickly and proactively.

  • Fitting large items of plant and equipment into tight spaces which were designed in 1897 and not with 21st century services in mind!
  • Completing the restoration project in a fast-track timetable, in time for the first graduation ceremonies to be held at the newly refurbished McEwan Hall.



Arthur McKay upgraded all M&E support services – over 5 floors, from basement to 3rd floor – with new heating, ventilation, plumbing, sanitaryware, lighting and emergency lighting, improving both efficiency and comfort for the building’s users. The re-development works dramatically enhance the comfort and capability of the hall, adding conference facilities and back of house accommodation, to future-proof its use as the university’s principal ceremonial space.

We completed all works with as little disruption to the building fabric as possible, under the watchful eye of conservation consultants from Historic Scotland. We overcame the issue of restricted access and tight spaces for installations by procuring specialist flat pack equipment, which we then erected on site. Needless to say, we were delighted to meet our handover deadline and attend the first batch of graduation ceremonies to witness all services operating as expected.


“Arthur McKay’s team is technically proficient. They are also approachable, proactive and fully met our requirements, even attending our graduation ceremonies to commission all building services and ensure that everything operated as expected when the hall was in use at capacity.”

John Hart, Project Manager, The University of Edinburgh


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