Residential Conversion of Donaldson's School, Edinburgh

This significant project includes the restoration and conversion of the historic Playfair building and Gate Lodges into a collection of high quality apartments and the creation of new build housing to the north of the site.

The former Donaldson's School for the Deaf is one of the most distinctive buildings in Edinburgh and was designed by Edinburgh's foremost architect, William Playfair, in the 1840s. BuiIt in the style of a Jacobethan Palace, the 124,840 sq ft quadrangular form and central tower with domed octagonal turrets is arguably one of the most important structures in Edinburgh.

The site is being undertaken in partnership by two developers, each of whom have appointed the practice for their respective sections. City & Country is responsible for the restoration and conversion of the Grade A listed William Playfair building into a range of residential apartments whilst CALA Homes will be constructing new apartments on the north side of the site.

The proposal consists of a crescent of new build apartments to the north of the site and conversion of the existing building into a series of mezzanine apartments. The development will offer a varied mix of different property types and will also feature a newly created half moon shaped landscaped garden area between the Playfair building and the crescent of new build properties. The proposed landscape scheme aims to enhance the feeling and perception of still being in the country, on the rural edge of a historic city, in much the same way as Playfair intended. Parking will be provided for all residents within underground car parks and the south lawn will be retained as an open grassed area.

City & Country’s aim for the revised proposals of the Playfair Building have been guided by a specific set of principles, including working with the existing grain of the building to ensure a greater retention of existing fabric and historic features, providing a varied mix of unit types and sizes to appeal to a wide range of potential purchasers, and creating an extensive repair schedule for the restoration of the Playfair building.

Note: The practice successfully achieved a previous planning permission for this project in 2005/2007.

Other Details


Architects Richard Murphy, Matt Bremner, Bill Black
Client  Cala Homes and City & Country


2018 The Herald Property Awards - Judges Award for the Playfair Building
2018 Scottish Home Awards - Apartment Development of the Year & Renovation of the Year for the Playfair Building
2018 WhatHouse? Best Renovation Gold Award 2018 - Playfair Building


9 September 2023 Property interview: Simon Vernon-Harcourt on the design challenges of the Donaldson's project The Scotsman
21 August 2023 Cala's 'most ambitious project' draws to a close in Edinburgh Project Scotland
6 July 2017 First Look: Donaldson's School Transformed into Luxury Flats Edinburgh Evening News
September 2015 Residential plans submitted for Donaldson's College Scottish Construction Now
September 2015 Richard Murphy outlines Donaldson's College plan BD
September 2015 Dramatic new plans for historic Donaldson's School Edinburgh Evening News
August 2015 Revealed: New look for old Donaldson's College site The Herald
August 2015 Another stage in the planning process for Donaldson's The Edinburgh Reporter
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