Seven of the world’s elite architecture firms have been shortlisted in a unique competition to find the best design to successfully bring a piece of history into the modern era.
The shortlisted seven competed against 400 individual firms of architects, landscape designers, engineers and other specialists from all over the globe.
All of them brought their best to the table, hoping to be the ones responsible for designing the new £25 million (approximately) Ross Pavilion and Gardens project in the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland.
The hopeful designs were brought to the Ross Development Trust (the Trust), which is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO), established in September 2016 for the purposes of delivering the Pavilion and Gardens project.
The Trust, in collaboration with the City of Edinburgh Council and Malcolm Reading Consultants, chose the seven finalist teams who will proceed to the second stage of the competition.
They selected designs from:
According to the Trust, the specific aim of the project, and the competition, was to provide a new landmark pavilion to replace the existing Bandstand, as well as a visitor centre with café, and subtle updates and improvements to the surrounding landscape. The initiative is intended to create a flexible contemporary venue, which is sensitive to context and historic setting, and where both residents and visitors can engage with a variety of cultural events all year round.
It is a big deal for the city of Edinburgh to ensure that the project is done right. The West Princes Street Gardens and the Ross Bandstand is considered a nationally-important space that not only provides a place of tranquility for the city’s people but also Scotland’s most high-profile events and celebrations.
A brief history – what makes it so special
The Ross Bandstand’s history can be dated back to the mid-1800s, where it provided a venue for live music. Back then, it was only a convenient patch of land, until in 1877 architects Kinnear and Peddie erected a permanent structure, firmly establishing its function as a venue. The Trust said that this structure was replaced in 1935 by an open air theatre – the same theatre that occupies the space today.
It has always been a place of life, music and social gathering, however as time goes by the theatre has fallen into disrepair, despite being regularly upgraded and extended throughout the twentieth century.
It became a sore point for the city, as it became unfit for use and regularly closed to the public. According to the Trust, it restricted access through the gardens and “created a void in one of the most visited green spaces in Scotland”.
Finally, in 2004, enough was enough. The original structure from the 1900s was falling apart. After almost a decade of unsuccessful design competitions, project applications and funding constraints, in 2015 the idea received sponsorship, helping to fund the The Ross Development Trust and revive the process in 2016.
It has been a process of planning and fundraising, until now when architects from around the world have come to contribute their creativity to a modern Edinburgh scene.
The architect’s vision and statements
With Morgan McDonnell, BuroHappold Engineering, Plan A Consultants, JLL, Turley, Arup, Sandy Brown, Charcoalblue, AOC Archaeology, Studio LR, FMDC, Interserve and Thomas & Adamson.
“Adjaye Associates’ proposal for the new Ross Pavilion and the reimagined West Princes Street Gardens is a celebration of Edinburgh as a cultural capital and a reflection of the site’s unique topography and location on the verge between the Old and the New Towns.
“Our scheme honours the legacy and architectural language of the original bandstand that was once the beating heart of the Gardens in the late 19th century, reinterpreting its function and iconography within the contemporary context. The result is a garden temple responding to the modern-day city, a pleasure pavilion conceived as a sculptural intervention, which serves as a flexible performance space, a community hub and a new icon for Edinburgh.
"The Pavilion is the focal point of a system of stone-clad outdoor, indoor and in-between public spaces, discreetly embedded into the landscape.”
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)
With JM Architects, WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, GROSS.MAX., Charcoalblue, Speirs + Major, JLL, Alan Baxter and People Friendly.
"At the meeting between the old and the new, the West Princes Street Garden occupies a central location – geographically, historically, and culturally – in Edinburgh. The existing bandstand, in the heart of the Gardens, paradoxically has the feeling of a leftover space that divides rather than unites.
"We propose to enhance and reconnect the abundant qualities of the Gardens with a pavilion sculpted by its context: its gently undulating canopy reflects the movement of the terrain below and the light of the sky above. Visual transparency at ground level allows for uninterrupted enjoyment of the Gardens. From within, it will frame the context of Edinburgh Castle and its dramatic setting.
"The rejuvenated bandstand provides momentum to reconsider the Gardens at-large by updating the planting regime, opening up key views, and improving access and connectivity throughout. A refreshment of the historic Gardens that roots its future in the heritage of its past."
With Gillespies, Expedition Engineering, JLL, Arup and Alan Baxter.
"The Gardens form a topographical and visual division between the Old and New Towns, whilst also uniting the people of Edinburgh; a place for people to gather and appreciate the thrilling topography of the city. The sinuous landforms of the Performance Space and Visitor Centre reflects the Garden’s natural landscape in contrast with the angular built form of the Old and New Towns.
"Our proposals aim to make the Gardens more connected to the city with a dramatic and accessible sense of arrival for all at the Visitor Centre.
"This is a project of contrasts; between the New and Old Towns and the Gardens that separate them and between quiet tranquil days in the Gardens and vibrant large scale public events. Our concept is based on creating an architecture that can perform equally well with each of these contrasting modes of behaviour.
"Our design solution is based on understanding how our interventions can be both introverted when the gardens are quiet, and extroverted during the celebrations and events."
Page \ Park Architects
With West 8 Landscape Architects, BuroHappold Engineering, Charcoalblue and Muir Smith Evans.
"Princes Street Gardens, linking the New Town to Old, is a landscape for viewing the spectacular setting, a garden of commemoration, and a garden to enjoy. The lengthy flower bank to Princes Street is world unique. Our strategy is simple: we leave this alone.
"Splendid new entrances, self-evident way-finding and a re-visioned ‘Blaes’ area provide for contextual augmentations to a new Ross Pavilion which includes a combined visitor centre and performance venue.
"In Classical garden tradition there is a typology of a grotto fed by springs for assembly, marriage, song and dance – the Nymphaeum. In imagining the new Ross Pavilion we have carved into the landscape such a grotto.
"A stage at the foot of the ‘Castle Rock’; marking the memory of the old ‘Nor Loch’, lined in pillars of decorated stone echoing the ‘modern henge’ Royal Scots memorial and surmounted with a golden copper roof in the spirit of the ‘Ross Fountain’."
Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter
With GROSS.MAX., AECOM, Charcoalblue, Groves-Raines Architects and Forbes Massie Studio.
"How can the Ross Pavilion offer a new world class cultural venue not just for Edinburgh, but the whole of Scotland?"The Ross Pavilion will be the focal point of the city of Edinburgh and its many visitors, but it can also be a symbolic place for all of Scotland as well. The intervention into the Gardens is therefore conceived as a facility for the entire nation, indeed it is a project that has the potential to capture the imagination of people across the country.
"For the Ross Pavilion, we propose a public asset that can not only perform as a modern performance venue, but a visitor experience that explores the varied landscapes and histories of the Gardens and the terrains of Scotland beyond.
"A simple but bold design allows us to propose a venue that can host the wide variety of functions the pavilion calls for. Furthermore, it offers us the flexibility to propose a wider range and intensification of human activities in the Gardens and unleash the incredible potential the site has for Edinburgh. For that matter it can tap into the long history the city’s backdrop has had for inspiring some of mankind’s highest achievements in the arts, literature, philosophy and science.
"Our approach to the architecture and landscape has been that of sensitive interventions into the historic fabric of the Gardens. Elements are formed from their context and crafted from quality and timeless materials, and completed with water terracing that recalls the Nor Loch."
With GRAS, Groves-Raines Architects, Arup, Studio Yann Kersalé, O Street, Stuco, Creative Concern, Noel Kingsbury, Atelier Ten and Lawrence Barth, and Alan Cumming, Aaron Hicklin, Beatrice Colin, Peter Ross, Alison Watson and Adrian Turpin.
"The word ‘pavilion’, from the Old French for butterfly (papillion), parsed through the pictogram of a highly-decorated tent, evokes the fluttering canvas and heraldry of a field campaign with a glorious connection between nature and humankind.
"The butterfly is unity of symmetry and organic form, whose lines can be traced and followed, eagerly denoting meaning. Occasionally alighting, it is of the air but connects with the ground. It delights and draws you in.
"And so it is with this new ‘pavilion’. Pleasure will be drawn from rock and fold, from seam and segue. There are glimpses of history and the promise of a performance. People will connect through their common story and shared song. There is music in the air.
"Light, space, sound, and poetry. Castle, rock, garden, and fountain. Without nature, the city is lifeless."This is a place for people and their perpetual delight.
William Matthews Associates and Sou Fujimoto Architects
With BuroHappold Engineering, GROSS.MAX., Purcell, Scott Hobbs Planning and Filippo Bolognese.
"These four words defined both the brief and our response – a place for people to gather and celebrate the performing arts in one of the global capitals of culture.
"The inspiration for the project came from Celtic spirals, the remarkable stone circles of Orkney and the circular forms of the original Bandstand, the Ross Fountain and the Royal Scots memorial. They were reinterpreted to create a new typology of pavilion and viewing platform for the West Princes Street Gardens. The proposal is a powerful landmark symbolising the unity of Edinburgh: its history, originality, art and culture.
"The rings offer new panoramic views of the important heritage sites of the city. They connect the New Town, the Castle and the Old Town without disturbing the existing axial paths of the Gardens.
"Contrasting with the light and floating spiral are the Visitor Centre and the Performance Space. They blend into the urban context of Princes Street on one side and the Gardens on the other, ready to come alive for the cultural events for which Edinburgh is famous."
“We were absolutely delighted by the response of designers from around the world to the competition’s first stage," Ross Development Trust Chairman Norman Springford said.
"The quality of the 125 teams on the long list sent a strong signal that the international design community regards this as an inspirational project for Edinburgh that has huge potential to reinvigorate this prestigious site."Construction is expected to begin in 2018 after a finalist is selected.
Facts, statements and images courtesy Ross Development Trust, Malcolm Reading Consultants Limited, David Springford (photos), Adjaye Associates, Bjarke Ingels Group, Flanagan Lawrence, Page \ Park Architects, Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter, wHY, William Matthews Associates and Sou Fujimoto Architects.