Panmure House is the last home of the hugely influential Scottish philosopher and economist Adam Smith
In 2008 the house was bought by the Edinburgh Business School (EBS) and after a long journey of restoration it officially re-opened in autumn 2018.
Heather McGregor, Executive Dean of EBS, shares the story of its re-development and the new role it will play in developing the leading thinkers of the future.
“Panmure House is Adam Smith’s only surviving residence. Nestled in the Canongate, within the heart of Edinburgh’s World Heritage site, the house stood vacant for many years, suffering significant neglect as a result. At one point it was threatened with demolition to make way for new apartments.
“We purchased the house in 2008, and now ten years on, we are celebrating its opening as a new dynamic centre for thought and debate. Over those years we have encountered many challenges, not least the need to balance careful restoration of an A-listed building with the demands of a new modern purpose. Inevitably, it took time to get our plans approved.
“The house required total refurbishment: we’ve raised floors, repaired roofs and ceilings, renovated the windows and excavated the basement. We aimed to stay true to the spirit of the building in Adam Smith’s time but there was very little information about how the house looked in his day. So we’ve had to re-imagine it, creating an interior feel that is sympathetic to the period but facilitates a modern use of the building.
The entrance hall is now an interpretation area, while the rooms in which Adam Smith studied and revised his key works are the main meeting and event spaces.”
Embracing the future
“Our goal is to make Panmure House a unique and inspirational place for independent thinking and economic debate. It will operate as a centre of research, enlightenment and international fellowship, and an environment where Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment can be placed in a modern setting.
“Students, academics, and leaders in business and industry will gather in Panmure House to progress understanding of the modern world through discussion and debate across the fields of economics, social sciences and moral philosophies.
“The unique environment of the house provides a highly conducive setting for discussion events. We’ll host prestigious economic gatherings and hope to bring leading thinkers, including Noble Laureates here, to debate the best ideas that are going to change our world. We will also host two PhD students within the house.
“I believe it will attract a good deal of attention from around the globe as a centre of economic thought and debate, as well as a place to learn more about Adam Smith and reflect on his relevance to modern society.”
We began to invite the public into Panmure House during the summer, ahead of the official opening in autumn. Over 1200 people came through the doors: some to enjoy a play by Scottish actor and playwright, John Yule, telling the story of how Smith achieved his success and the famous people who influenced him; others to participate in a series of panel debates led by Merryn Somerset Webb, Editor of the UK best-selling finance magazine MoneyWeek.
Supporting the heritage of enlightenment
Developing Panmure House has required determination and imagination, but the greatest resource has been the generosity of a range of individuals, Charitable Trusts and corporate donors.
Now that we are open we continue to require support across a range of needs and in particular the Panmure House PhD Scholarship Fund. We have pledged to raise £1,000 for each of the 161 countries in which our alumni live and work. If you would like to make a
donation please get in touch.
"Enlightened Perspective: Panmure House and the thinkers of tomorrow" - Development and Alumni Relations Office (2018), The Watt Club. Read the full Watt Club alumni magazine here.