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Observatory embarks on new mission after £4.5m makeover

Collective, a new centre for contemporary art, opened in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Collective: A panoramic view from the terrace.
Collective: A panoramic view from the terrace. Tom Nolan

A multi-million pound makeover of one of Edinburgh's most iconic landmarks has been unveiled, 200 years after it was originally opened.

Collective, on Calton Hill, will include the restored City Observatory, designed by William Playfair in 1818, a new purpose-built exhibition space with panoramic viewing terrace, and a restaurant.

Kate Gray, director of Collective, said: "It's been a long time coming and we are really excited to be opening our doors to the public."

Beautiful: The site has been given a £4.5m makeover.
Beautiful: The site has been given a £4.5m makeover. Tom Nolan

The development on the world heritage site is the result of a partnership between artists, businesses and local people.

The team have been fundraising for five years, with backers including the city council, Creative Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Exhibit: The telescope and artworks are on display.
Exhibit: The telescope and artworks are on display. Tom Nolan / Klaus Weber

Alongside new spaces for contemporary art, Edinburgh's city observatory has been given a new lease of life with the original telescope, installed in the observatory in 1831, on display.

Ms Gray added: "When we took on the observatory it had actually been remodelled quite a lot, and we wanted to take it back to Playfair's original scheme.

"So we have actually taken a lot out that had been put in, and then reinstated things that were here to begin with. So what people will see is what Playfair originally intended.

"We hope the exhibition and the telescopes really contribute to each other. Our aim is to be a new kind of city observatory, which looks back at the heritage of the site but also thinks about the future and where we are going."

The £4.5m project fully opened to the public on Saturday.

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