Lochrin Basin

Since part of the development at Lochrin Basin in Edinburgh, part of the redevelopment of the canal (which you can sail along via the Falkirk Wheel or cycle beside right to Glasgow again), is on this year’s RIAS architecture award shortlist Mel and decided to have a walk along the towpath to it on the way into town. Unfortunately we weren’t sure exactly which of the new buildings there is on the RIAS shortlist! And to be honest neither of us thought any of them to be particularly attractive buildings; they’re not hideous but neither are they inspiring. Its a mix of cafes, bars, offices and new apartments. The large cobbled space around the end of the canal is a nice wide space but badly used – much of it is empty and there is little greenery. It is a bit like the recent developments in the financial district – walk up from the Clydesdale Bank’s building towards the EICC you find another large, spacious plaza between these huge, new buildings.

A very welcome thing to see, but again it is a wasted space; there are seats around the edge but the huge, cobbled middle area is empty. If this were Paris or Rome (or even Glasgow for that matter) there would be seats in the middle, a fountain, some plants or sculpture where the office folk from those buildings could relax, but no, just a huge, empty space. And as it is, like most financial districts, empty on a weekend, it feels even worse – a big space right in the city centre, desolate and empty – such a waste and it shows the complete lack of the human factor in the planner’s design. No warmth whatsoever. Why do planners and architects do this? And why do council planning departments not intervene?

Oh well, at least in the case of the canal side it is a lot of old brownbelt land being re-used, which is good and it is nice to see traffic on there again. There are jetties set up for narrowboats to dock at, with services all at the dockside and the towpath is fixed up so you can walk and cycle along quite enjoyably (top ride is out to nearby Ratho village where I heartily recommend the pub there which does great food).

Cargo, the cafe-bar on Lochrin basin is not a place I’d recommend though, unless you have money to burn – any place around Fountainbridge which charges more than £3 per drink is fleecing you in my opinion. It does have a huge outside area looking onto the canal, covered in those large, outdoor heaters; I’ve never beheld so many of these things in one space together before. Since they are used outdoors and outdoors generally has no roof, they are pretty stupid devices, venting most of their heat straight into the atmosphere. Waste of fuel and incredibly unfriendly to the environment – and having a forest of the damned things must make this a very environmentally damanging spot when they are all on! Hell, if you can’t sit outside without these things burning then it is clearly too cold and you should go inside! What is the point of them?!?!