Opened in 1887, the Infirmary Street Baths were the product of Victorian public health improvements. The bathhouse gave people from the neighbourhood somewhere
to swim and, more importantly, to wash, making a stand against cholera and other infectious diseases; modern-style bathrooms were not a common feature in the city's working class households at the time. The baths remained in use for more than a century, eventually closing in 1995. They lay derelict for more than a decade, but have now found an unlikely new lease of life.
The roots of Dovecot Studios go back to 1912, when the fourth Marquess of Bute created a tapestry studio in Corstorphine with the help of two craftsmen who had previously worked with William Morris. The venture worked regularly with artists of a high calibre, among them Stanley Spencer, Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland. Around the turn of the millennium, the seventh Marquess of Bute no longer felt able to lend support to the studios, which were threatened with closure. But with assistance from Alastair and Elizabeth Salvesen from the family behind transport and logistics company Christian Salvesen, the studios were reborn in 2001. And in August 2008, Dovecot moved into its new home - the old Infirmary Street Baths, transformed with £8 million
of the Salvesens' money by Malcolm Fraser Architects.
At the entrance level, there's a reception and exhibition space, in which the studio stages a rotating programme of temporary exhibitions dedicated to art, crafts and design (not solely tapestry). Further inside, the old swimming pool has been converted into an impressive weaving studio, complete with its own mezzanine viewing gallery (open one morning a month).
All told, it's a fresh, attractive space, certainly one of the more engaging Edinburgh galleries to have opened in recent years.