Sir Robert Rowand Anderson designed the University's graduation hall in 1874.
The hall was built to seat 2000 for graduations, concerts and public occasions.
The building’s namesake, Sir William McEwan, was founder of the well known Edinburgh brewing firm. He was an MP for Central Edinburgh, an art connoisseur and noted philanthropist.
The magnificent D-shaped hall was designed in 1874. It features two semi-circular galleries served by a pair of clever spiral stairs, each arranged as a double helix with separate interlocked spirals.
McEwan Hall was the main concert venue in Edinburgh until 1914, when Usher Hall was constructed with funding from a rival Edinburgh brewer.
The interior imitates a Greek theatre with two tiers of galleries and a half-domed ceiling illustrated by paintings of goddesses as symbols of the Arts and Sciences.
Painted by William Palin, the murals feature Minerva in the Grove of Academe receiving the gift of the Hall as well as other goddesses representing Science, Art and Literature in the Temple of Fame.
The organ was a late addition, which required the pipes to be fitted ingeniously behind the existing fabric of the platform apse.
It used the latest technology of the time and was operated by compressed air but controlled electrically from a moveable console.
This article was published on Aug 9, 2011