Originally built in 1899, as part of the Scotsman building – the steps have undergone a major refurbishment to create an attractive way to get quickly from one level of the city to another as well as creating a unique art destination in its own right.
Previously the building looked run down and worse for wear with graffiti on the walls, damage to the stairs and recurring anti-social behaviour.
Now, the City of Edinburgh Council has been working with Edinburgh World Heritage and the Fruitmarket Gallery on a major project to bring the historic steps back to life.
Since 2009, repairs have been carried out, retaining much of the original architecture. The work was carried out with around £250,000 funding from the Council and Edinburgh World Heritage.
And the Fruitmarket Gallery also commissioned a Turner-Prize winning Scottish artist, Martin Creed in a £250,000 stunning art project.
The artwork called, Work 1059 is a feast for the eyes – with 104 steps leading from the Scotsman Hotel on North Bridge to Waverley Station and The Fruitmarket Gallery on Market Street . Each step is clad in a different colour of marble.
It is hoped, that the new refurbishment and artwork will not only improve the condition of the steps and bring in a wow factor but will reduce anti-social behaviour which was once associated with the building.
Councillor Jenny Dawe, Leader of the Council, said: “The Scotsman Steps are an important part of Edinburgh ‘s culture and heritage, linking the historic old and new towns. They can once again fulfil that role in magnificent style with the original structures restored and the added art work. This has been an excellent partnership project with heritage, arts and government bodies working to make a special contribution to the city”
Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage said: “The City can now be truly proud of the Scotsman Steps, which are now worth seeing in their own right, as well as being a handy short-cut through the city. The project has brought together the flair of artist Martin Creed and the traditional skills of stone masons, in the process transforming the steps and adding a bit of good old-fashioned delight and discovery. Steps such as these, and the narrow closes of the Old Town , need careful treatment to make them safe and attractive for residents and visitors.”
Fiona Bradley, Director of The Fruitmarket Gallery said: “The Fruitmarket Gallery is proud to have commissioned this beautiful and thoughtful sculpture, making art of internationally-recognised quality part of the everyday lives of residents of and visitors to Edinburgh .”
The work was also supported by the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund.
Martin Creed Work No. 1059, 2011. New Commission for the Scotsman Steps. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.
Copyright: The Fruitmarket Gallery. Photograph: Gautier Deblonde.