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Winner of £25m contest unveiled

‘Butterfly’ pavilion to form new gardens centrepiece

Winning entry: respects the Castle and surrounding landscape


A team led by US-based design practice wHY has won the competition to revitalise the West Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh.

Its organic landscape-focused “butterfly” pavilion will replace the ageing Ross Bandstand which has featured as a centrepiece of the city’s Hogmanay and Edinburgh International Festival closing fireworks events.

The Ross Pavilion International Design Competition attracted first-stage submissions from 125 teams (made up of 400 firms) from 22 countries.

The wHY team, which was unanimously selected by judges as the winner for the £25 million revamp, included Edinburgh-based design studio GRAS, Groves-Raines Architects, Arup, Studio Yann Kersalé, O Street, Stuco, Creative Concern, Noel Kingsbury, Atelier Ten and Lawrence Barth.

The new Pavilion will provide a flexible platform for arts and cultural programming and allow visitors and residents to engage with a variety of events all year round.

The competition jury met on July 11 to interview the seven shortlisted teams and were due to announce the winner on Friday. The decision was announced today by the Ross Development Trust and Edinburgh Council.

Judges felt the winning design enabled the castle to remain the main visual event. The £25 million scheme increases the amount of green space relative to hard surfaces within the Gardens and is, in the team’s words, “human scale with moments of drama… activating four layers of meaning within the Gardens: botanical, civic, commemorative and cultural”.

The jury praised the team’s concept design as “a beautiful and intensely appealing proposal that complemented, but did not compete with, the skyline of the city and the Castle”.

They liked the concept of the activated community space with a democratic spirit, potentially creating a new and welcoming focus for the city’s festivals while appreciating that the team’s design balanced this with a strong approach to the smaller, intimate spaces within the wider Gardens.

Norman Springford, chaired panel which also comprised city council chief executive Andrew Kerr; Sir Mark Jones, former director of the National Museum of Scotland and author Alexander McCall Smith. Other judges were: Ada Yvars Bravo of MYAA Architects; Malcolm Reading, architect; Riccardo Marini, director of Gehl Architects and Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage.

Design does not detract from the Castle

Mr Springford said: “As is always the case with initiatives of this size and stature, the jury had a hard job. We are confident however that we have a winning concept that embodies an imaginative ensemble landscape approach, creating a wonderful stage for our iconic Edinburgh Castle.

“In addition, the design concept offers a creative energy and a series of unique elements which will all combine to create a new and contemporary landscape.”

He said the winning design “respects and enhances” the historical context and backdrop of the Castle and the city, whilst creating new heritage and increasing the green space within the Gardens.

“These were key aspects for us all and respected the importance of the space within a World Heritage Site,” he said.

wHY is a collective of architects, landscape designers, makers and strategic thinkers, established in 2004 and with offices in New York and Los Angeles; the studio’s competition-winning entry was led by founder and creative director Kulapat Yantrasast and landscape design director Mark Thomann.

Ross Bandstand

The existing bandstand

A key local partner in the winning collaboration was Edinburgh-based design studio GRAS, known for its exploratory, interdisciplinary approach and an eclectic portfolio of arts, cultural and community-based projects.

Kulapat Yantrasast said: “wHY is built around an ecology of disciplines, the convergence of ideas, experience, nature and people.

“The Ross Pavilion and West Princes Street Gardens represent this convergence and this was the perfect ground to further our approach to design. To be selected from so many extraordinary thinkers is an honour.

“We felt a personal connection to the Gardens and believe our design embodies how important collaboration and people are to making a place remarkable.”

Mark Thomann added: “This is a special opportunity for a special place, not just for Edinburgh but the world. The new Ross Pavilion and Gardens draw from the rich natural history, heritage and creative spirit of Scotland, embodying a model approach for integrating public architecture and urban space in a top global city.

“Our team looks forward to realising this vision with the Ross Development Trust and the people of Edinburgh.”

The jury praised all the finalists for their hard work and commitment and awarded a special commendation to the team led by William Matthews Associates and Sou Fujimoto Architectsfor “a memorable and delicate design that opened up unexpected views, particularly those to the Castle.”

The other five teams were led by Adjaye AssociatesBjarke Ingels Group (BIG); Flanagan LawrencePage / Park ArchitectsWest 8 Landscape Architects and BuroHappold Engineering; and Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter. All the finalists’ schemes remain available to view online through the websites of the competition and the Ross Development Trust.

The Ross Development Trust is working with  Edinburgh Council on the initiative. Key project stakeholders include Historic Environment Scotland, the Cockburn Association, the Old Town Community Council and Edinburgh World Heritage.

wHY will now work with the Trust, the council and other stakeholders, and consult with the public, to take forward the project to revitalise this space, positioned just below Edinburgh Castle and adjoining Princes’ Street.

The competition was organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants.

Construction is expected to begin in 2018.

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