The council has approved plans for a pair of giant head sculptures commemorating two prominent artists as the newest addition to St James Quarter.

The 12 foot-tall artwork will take pride of place in the city centre on the steps leading from St James Square to the entrance of the shopping and leisure complex, by the W Hotel.

Designed by sculptor David Harber and built up using a series of ‘laser cut uprights’, ‘On the Shoulders of Giants’ will appear different to the observer depending on their position on the stairs.

The two heads have been modelled on Serbian fashion textile designer Bernat Klein, who spent much of his career in Scotland, and Scottish illustrator and sculptor Cecile Walton, representing two generations of 20th Century artists.

Plans submitted by Nauveen Real Estate state: “As you walk down the steps, the forms of Bernat Klein and Cecile Walton become visible, making a reference to past achievements, thinking and contributions. Both views, whether looking up or down the steps are however inextricably linked.”

When walking up the steps a younger man and woman will become visible, making a “link to the current generation,” according to plans.

The planning statement said: “It was important that the sculpture communicated and connected to the aspirations to a younger generation of Scottish people, and how social and creative change and development over the last century has, and is helping to shape the future.

“From the outset we were keen to make the piece dynamic, and something the public could engage visually with. Given this is a major access point, we wanted to develop a sculpture that offered a distinct experience depending whether you were walking up or walking down the steps.”

As well as being a “prominent long-term piece of public art”, designs stated the sculpture is also intended to keep people away from the hotel’s ‘ribbon’ which runs alongside the stairway.

Granting planning permission for the installation, Edinburgh City Council said: “The proposal is acceptable in scale and design given the context of the surrounding St James Quarter. The proposal will preserve the special character and appearance of the conservation area, and not be detrimental to the setting of the nearby listed buildings.

“Prior to commencement of work, a detailed specification, including trade names where appropriate and samples where required, of all the proposed materials shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the planning authority.”

Ken Buchanan MBE

In addition temporary planning permission was granted in February for a 12 month period to allow a statue of boxing legend Ken Buchanan to be erected on Little King Street near St James Quarter.

The Ken Buchanan Foundation wants to put up a statue to the former boxer who many regard as the greatest Scottish boxer of all time.

With victories in far flung places like Puerto Rico and Madison Square Gardens in New York in his past, Ken Buchanan received an MBE in 1971 in recognition of his stellar career. He retired from boxing in 1982 and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2000. He received the Edinburgh Award in 2017.

by Donald Turvill Local Democracy Reporter

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) is a public service news agency : funded by the BBC, provided by the local news sector, and used by qualifying partners. Local Democracy Reporters cover top-tier local authorities and other public service organisations.