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‘Puzzling’ project is an Edinburgh ‘first’

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Written by Roma Publications

Themed around grisly tales of bodysnatchers Burke and Hare supplying bodies to anatomy lecturer Dr Robert Knox, Dr Knox’s Enigma is a new live puzzle game venue, just completed in Warriston Close, Edinburgh.

The project is believed to be the first of its kind in the city.

Main contractors for the scheme, carried out for Puzzle Monkey Ltd, were Elmwood Construction, who have been commended for their work; architects were Oliver Chapman Architects.

The venue is located off the Royal Mile and occupies the second floor of a seven storey building which is divided into various businesses.

In 1828, the streets of Edinburgh were gripped with fear. The warren of busy closes in Edinburgh’s Old Town were full of rumours of murder, bodysnatching and grave-robbing. Dr Robert Knox MD was without doubt a medical genius, but how much was he involved with William Burke and William Hare? That is Dr Knox’s Enigma.

Burke and Hare were associated with something like sixteen nineteenth-century murders, and the first game, Wilson’s Revenge, refers specifically to the 1828 murder of an 18-year-old man with a distinctive limp and pronounced mental health issues. Another game, The Barclay Collection, refers to the anatomist John Barclay who offered Knox a partnership in his anatomy school. Each game lasts about 60 minutes and is located in a custom built set with tailored lighting and sound.

Project architect Akiko Kobayashi of Oliver Chapman Architects said: “This is a live game experience where contestants work their way through a series of rooms with activities including finding clues, cracking codes, solving puzzles and riddles, opening boxes and finding keys before moving on to the next challenge.

“The concept of the design is based on a theatre stage set and features trompe-l’oel (an art technique creating the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions), as well as antique and reclaimed furniture and fittings (including stags’ heads).”

The works commenced within an open shell space with a raw screeded floor and included the installation of partitions to create the venue’s eight puzzle rooms which are divided into four sets of two.

This was not straightforward as some of the partitions were curved and the works also required the installation of mechanical services, including air supply heating, as the building does not have a water supply.

Sound proofing of the partitions was also important, so that contestants could not hear competitors solving clues in adjacent rooms. Further works included the installation of a sophisticated audio visual system including cameras, sound effects and background noise.

The plasterboard finishes of the partitions have been left in their original state, as has the screeded floor, and areas of the building’s historic stonework have been left exposed.

“The contractors did a good job on the project. It really was a fun scheme to work on and is the first of its kind in Edinburgh,” said Akiko Kobayashi.


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