Gillian Kavanagh

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My Master’s work focuses on the intersection between interior architecture and conservation. Concern for the genesis of exclusive historic interiors into inclusive productive spaces has driven the briefs that I have formed this year. The context of this study is the Freemasons Hall on George Street in the New Town of Edinburgh. This site provided an opportunity to consider how historic spaces can be revitalised through adaption for modern functions. Adaptations allow for longevity, which is the principal argument of my design thinking. The layering of materials, symbolic imagery and human narratives greatly informs my work with respect to harmonising adaptive designs to the existing fabric in the Freemasons Hall.



This work can is organised into three principal design briefs. They focus on condensing the appeal of the Masonic Myth through micro interiors, re-occupying the building with a practical stonemasonry school, and subverting the Masonic institution from a private club in to a free space for all the city. These briefs challenge the idea of a historic institution in the modern world, questioning how the interiors can be ‘re-programmed’ to revitalise their appeal. The conservation principal to ‘do no harm’ is applied to the original interiors in this process of adaptation.


In representing these ideas, I sought to redesign the interiors of the Freemasons Hall by experimenting with traditional drawing mediums to reflection on how they would have originally been conceived. The tactile nature of drawing and model making by hand is appropriate to the historical context of the site and allowed for a deeper personal engagement with the work.



While I have extensive experience in conservation architecture previous to undertaking the master’s course, studying has allowed freedom to develop representational techniques and design concepts.

Interior design and architectural conservation should overlap to enrich the layers of historic spatial occupancy while enabling new layers of narrative to unfold.

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