Dynamic Earth is located on the exact spot where James Hutton, the father of modern geology, lived and worked during the 18th century. Visitors can experience earthquakes, volcanoes and the processes that formed natural settings just like Edinburgh’s. Interactive, virtual and wide screen film technologies can simulate any event in the Earth’s evolution, from the Big Bang to the future. 

The building comprises three main parts: the fabric roof and its structure, a main two-storey building which contains the exhibition, administrative offices, workshops and a forecourt. 

The first makes a generous entrance pavilion, which looks towards the hills and the city. Although weather tight, its form and glass walls give the feel of an outdoor space. A hemispherical dome to a multi-media theatre bursts into the space, indicating something below. The two-storey exhibition space is a black box to give ideal viewing conditions, offices and workshops are on either side. An old wall, which once formed the edge of a brewery is restored and extended to make the external wall of the black box, suggesting in microcosm Edinburgh’s fruitful relationship between geology and human intervention. The third component is a monumental forecourt, a new public space adding to Edinburgh’s legacy of generous civic design - its amphitheatre can be used for outdoor performances during the Edinburgh Festival. 

Working with the exhibition designers Event, the exhibition had very specific spatial and servicing requirements for its twelve galleries which included a glacial iceberg kept at freezing temperatures, a torrential downpour within a hot and humid rain forest, a simulated earthquake and the experience of an erupting volcano. The striking form of Dynamic Earth adds to Edinburgh’s elegant urban character. The forecourt is a new public place and the amphitheatre is used for outdoor performances.


  • Location Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
  • Value £13.5 million
  • Size 15,000 m²
  • Client The Dynamic Earth Charitable Trust
  • Year 1999

Selected Awards

  • RIBA Regional Award
  • Civic Trust Award