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Collective takes on Observatory House to expand their offering into the hospitality sector

21 July 2021

Collective is a charitable visual arts organisation based in Edinburgh, which supports new work by artists who are at a pivotal stage in their development. In November 2018, Collective opened their new home on Calton Hill, re-purposing the restored City Observatory, City Dome, and featuring a purpose-built exhibition space with free public access to the site.

Collective’s programme of activities includes exhibitions, walks, and events that bring people together around contemporary art. They provide artists with the opportunity to create new work and allow audiences the chance to see it first-hand. In addition, they work with schools and community groups to engage with and co-create work which relates to the site and the histories and narratives it connects with.

The old Observatory House is also perched on Calton Hill and forms one corner of Collective’s site overlooking the city. The house dates back to the 18th century and was once home to resident astronomers. Collective recently took over the lease for the House and have begun restoration work that will complement the  listed architecture with a stylish contemporary finish, incorporating new commissions from artists that Collective has worked with previously. Once complete, this renewed Category A listed residential property will be available to rent for up to 10 guests, or as two separate apartments each accommodating 4 guests.

The Architectural Heritage Fund is delighted to be part of this project, supporting Collective with a tailored loan investment package of £300,000 towards renovating this historic listed building and adapting it to become accommodation for visitors and artists. Observatory House is both historically and physically inseparable from the rest of the site, which sits within Edinburgh’s UNESCO designated World Heritage Site, and will play a vital part in developing Collective’s sustainable future. 

Kate Gray, Artist Collective Gallery Director said:

“We’re delighted the Architectural Heritage Fund is supporting us to bring Observatory House back to life. By working with artists close to our hearts and adding a contemporary finish to the interior of the house, while restoring its beautiful period features and exterior, we hope to create a unique place to stay in Edinburgh. All of the income generated will be invested back into our mission to bring people together around contemporary art, so our guests will know their stay is also benefitting a local charity.”

Matthew Mckeague, Chief Executive, AHF, commented:
“This is a site of huge historical and architectural importance, and one with unparalleled views over Edinburgh. Collective has developed an exciting programme of art and community engagement since the site reopened and we are very pleased to be supporting them with the development of visitor and artist accommodation within the wonderful Observatory House.”     

For more information please visit

Editor’s notes

1)    The Architectural Heritage Fund is a registered charity, working since 1976 to promote the conservation and sustainable re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas. We are the only specialist heritage social investor in the UK. We provide advice, development grants and loans.

2)    Photos courtesy of Collective.

3)    For media enquiries please contact Oliver Brodrick-Ward, on 020 79250199 /

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