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Competition: Highland visitor shelters, Scotland

The Highland Council of Scotland has announced a design contest for three low-cost and remote visitor centres in Wester Ross (Deadline: 31 October)

The two-stage contest, open to architects and landscape architects, seeks ‘innovative and striking’ proposals for new visitor information points at three key entry points to the scenic region (pictured).

The £100,000 project will deliver three stand-alone shelters at the Smithy Hub near Lochcarron, the A835 layby close to Braemore junction and in Achnasheen.

Wester Ross, Scotland

Wester Ross, Scotland

Source: Image by Dave Conner

Eilean Donan Castle

According to the brief: ‘The aim is to improve the sense of place and visitor orientation on arrival in Wester Ross and to promote local attractions and amenities.

‘The sites selected are in natural landscapes of high quality and of international importance. Proposals should acknowledge the site and surroundings and be both appropriate and sympathetic to site and location.’

The coastal area of Wester Ross is a popular tourist destination featuring many sea lochs, freshwater lochs and Munro-class mountains.

The competition is part of Scotland’s 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design celebrations, and follows the creation of the North Coast 500 driving route which has boosted visitor numbers in the district.

Torridon Hills, Scotland

Torridon Hills, Scotland

Source: Image by Thruston

The Horns of Alligin in Wester Ross

The first shelter will be constructed at the Smithy Community Hub just outside Lochcarron where the popular touring trail enters Wester Ross from the south.

The second installation will replace an existing bus stop outside Achnasheen train station. Designs must fit within the structure’s existing envelope and include a bus and train timetable display.

The final installation will be erected within a large layby near Braemore Forest on the key A835 road between Ullappool and Inverness.

Entries must cover all three structures and include a consistent style and design theme that respects Wester Ross’s scenic natural surroundings.

Proposals for the shelters must include a seating area, visitor orientation map, local businesses display and a dispenser for A5-sized leaflets.

The remote structures should also be low maintenance and constructed from robust materials that are resistant to vandalism.

First round applicants should submit an A1-sized concept board for each site – featuring plans, elevations, sections and 3D images – alongside an A4-sized design statement.

Three shortlisted teams will then be invited to develop detailed proposals together with a basic cost and additional visuals in the contest’s second round at the start of November.

The winning team will be announced on 16 December and will receive £15,000 and the design commission. A £1,000 honorarium will also be paid to the two defeated finalists. The shelters are set to start on site next year.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 12 noon on 31 October

Contact details

Emma Whitham
The Highland Council
Development & Infrastructure
Council Headquarters
Glenurquhart Road

Tel: +44 1463702277

View the contract notice for more information

Edinburgh pavilion case study: Q&A with Kieran Gaffney

The co-founder of Konishi Gaffney Architects discusses lessons learned designing a pop-up pavilion for Edinburgh

How did your competition-winning Edinburgh pavilion create a high-quality and low-cost venue for the Cities Expo?

We were asked to represent and showcase Edinburgh which we tried to respond to with a dynamic and interesting form. The budget for our pavilion was £27,000 which made cost a main driving force. Time was also very tight with 3 weeks detail design, 5 weeks fabrication and 1 week install. We led the build in house working with an artist and maker which kept costs low and we were able to push on time. We built off-site, disassembled and installed on site in a few days. Our pavilion was probably large in contrast to this completion brief and certainly tall at 5m.



Edinburgh pavilion by Konishi Gaffney Architects

Which material, structural and other design techniques are available to architects seeking a similarly impressive outcome?

Off-site fabrication will probably need to be considered given the remote location and challenging weather. If so then dimensions and weight will be an issue, timber is likely to be important but the detailing of this will be important to ensure low maintenance is demonstrable. Transport sizes are worth considering.



Edinburgh pavilion by Konishi Gaffney Architects

What issues might be important when designing permanent public structures for remote and unsupervised locations such as in Wester Ross?

The client is looking for shelter but is open to how sheltered that shelter is, they are also looking for distinctive design and a theme that might link all three sites. If the design is any good vandalism will not be a problem but the sites are very wet and windy. Moving parts would need to be carefully considered but lighting will be important as from Nov - March it is essentially too dark to read for at least 18hrs a day! Demonstrating sustainability would also be important I think.



Edinburgh pavilion by Konishi Gaffney Architects