Laughing All the Way to the River Bank

Written on Oct 17, 2016


Edinburgh Pub Expands with Floating Space on the Water of Leith

How do you make a local watering hole even better? Bring the pub to the river. As in, put it right on the river.

GRAS Architects have designed an extension to the Malt & Hops pub in Edinburgh that creates 115 m2 of space on a deck that will rise and fall with the changing tides. The unconventional gathering space will feature a bar and seating area as well as a convenient water closet.

The design includes a timber deck supported by an iron-framed box that encases a series of floats. The form is inspired by barges and Leith’s history as a port. In a design statement, architect Stuart Falconer of GRAS noted:

“The planked deck will be supported by a box iron steel frame on ballasted floats. Fixed to this will be an integrated timber framed handrail clad in flush finished translucent acrylic. The exposed timber frame principle will continue to the entire perimeter and at the north end extended to form the servery, store and accessible WC. The structure will be moored against the dock with fixed arms which are capable of moving up and down with the slight tide. The finishes throughout have been kept intentionally restricted and enhanced using simple forms and modern architectural detailing.”

When it comes to a floating structure like this, one of the key challenges the engineering team faces is the changing nature of the weight on the structure as patrons come and go.  It’s critical to ensure the buoyancy allows for variation in loading that will occur. Buildings on land can rely on the ground to resist the weight of the building with very little movement.  On water, however, the challenge can be likened to supporting a structure on thousands of soft springs.

Throughout the design process, the engineering team considers how people will use and move around the extension and, in turn, how the structure will react.  Patrons need to feel comfortable on the floating space, so the design team works to ensure it stays fairly stable.

The Malt & Hops pub has been a part of Edinburgh since 1749.  As the structural engineering consultant, we were delighted to be a part of this expansion of the 267-year-old pub that’s sure to bring even more vibrancy to the area.

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