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View: Grid List
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Edinburgh, Scotland
EPC Rating A
Roddy Langmuir
EC Harris, Davis Langdon, Buro Happold, Max Fordham LLP, Speirs and Major, Gross Max, Zircon
CIBSE Awards - New Build Project of the Year - Public Sector (2012) Civic Trust Award Commendation (2011) RICS Scotland Awards - Sustainability Winner (2011) Scottish Event Awards - Best Unusual Venue (2010) ISE Award for Best Arts or Entertainment Structure (2010)
100 Projects UK CLT (2018) Tree Hugger (2018) Better Buildings (2017) The Green Studio Handbook (2011) Architecture Today (2011) TRADA Case Study (2010)

The John Hope Gateway has made a visit to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh – and learning about biodiversity and climate change – even more special.

John Hope Gateway

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh – a world-renowned centre for the scientific study of plants and their conservation – was already one of the city’s favourite places when the John Hope Gateway opened in 2009. It is now even more popular.

The Gateway is far more than an entrance, however stunning. With its exhibitions and a new biodiversity garden, it opens up the world of the Garden to visitors. The building itself – including wind turbine, rainwater harvesting and timber roof – has much to say about climate change and sustainability.

A restaurant, outdoor café, shop, and flexible spaces for events all add to the benefits that the building brings to the Garden.

The John Hope Gateway is included in the RIAS's Scotstyle List of the top 100 Scottish Buildings from the last 100 years.

"Cullinans were able to fulfil all our ambitions and we have been particularly impressed with their hard work in getting to know the client, understand our brief, and work together with us to provide an acceptable solution...The John Hope Gateway is now open to the public and the reaction has been breathtaking. We are extremely proud of the facility."

Alasdair McNab, RBGE


How sustainability helped to enhance the John Hope Gateway design - in 10 seconds

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh looked to the John Hope Gateway to put across its messages about environmental sustainability, not just in its exhibitions but also through the building itself.

Perhaps most obvious is the wind turbine mounted on the green sedum roof – but there are also other renewable energy systems, such as a biomass-fuelled boiler, solar collectors for hot water and photovoltaic panels.

Careful orientation, good daylighting, natural ventilation and high insulation levels all contribute to the building’s energy efficiency – and strong and durable materials will guarantee a long life for the Gateway.

Using natural, local materials to construct the Gateway has also reduced its carbon footprint. Timber – Scottish wherever possible – was an obvious choice and is used extensively for both structures and finishes, including the structured veneered lumber of the mullions and transoms of the glazing, the helical stair and major items of furniture. Even the restaurant table tops have been made from trees previously felled in the Garden.

It will be hard to leave the John Hope Gateway without appreciating the importance of trees and their many uses.

Rainwater is collected and used to flush the WCs


The design of the John Hope Gateway takes its cue from the contours, paths and trees of the mature landscape of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, but we also wanted to capture the energy and enthusiasm for the world of plants that drives its scientists and researchers.

With teams from both the Garden and Scottish Natural Heritage, we worked and reworked the design until it chimed with what makes it special.

The building sits at the point where the path leading to the centre of the Garden crosses the circular perimeter path – but we see it less as an ‘object’ in the landscape, more as a ‘lens’ through which to understand it.

A long slate wall runs along the axis to Inverleith House, helping to lock the Gateway into its surroundings. Views of the Garden are framed by the slate walls and the projected timber roof and, inside, routes and views radiate out to the landscape.

John Hope Gateway - context

Through a 60m curved glass wall you see the new biodiversity garden. With plant species critical to biodiversity, it forms a living extension of the exhibition spaces. It can also be explored outside along a zigzag path, or seen from the outside terraces on the upper floor. 


The stone, timber, concrete and glass used in the John Hope Gateway have been put together in ways that bring out their inherent qualities. Each has a specific role.

The horizontal Caithness stone is stacked to glide into the contours of the Garden. The cross laminated timber glulam roof floats over the whole building as a single horizontal plane on pencil-thin steel columns – the most slender that we could devise.  A series of coffered timber bays give an individual identity to open plan spaces below. The curved glass wall looks onto the zigzag beds of the new biodiversity garden.

Detail of the helical stair connecting the ground floor exhibition spaces to the first floor restaurant area

There is no obvious ‘front’ or ‘back’ to the building – it can be approached from all directions and on different levels – and the boundaries between inside and outside also blur.  

The roof is extended to create sheltered spaces. Its deep overhangs provide protection from rain and wind – so you can be outside and watch and smell the garden whatever the weather. There are walls that can be opened in summer, and inside on a cold winter’s day you are constantly aware of the Garden outside.

The ground floor exhibition spaces and shop extend into the surrounding landscape. These are overlooked by the restaurant and offices on the upper floor, which surround a double-storey atrium.

This all works to make the most of daylight and natural ventilation.