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Competition: Ross Pavilion, Edinburgh

The Ross Development Trust is holding an international competition for a £25 million visitor centre and café in West Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh (Deadline: 13 March)

The contest, organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants, seeks an ‘outstanding team’ to deliver a landmark new venue, to be called the Ross Pavilion, on a prominent site beneath Edinburgh Castle within the Scottish capital’s UNESCO World Heritage zone.

The pavilion will replace the existing 1935 Ross Bandstand (pictured), which hosts the city’s Hogmanay celebrations and the Edinburgh International Festival’s closing fireworks concert but has fallen into disrepair in recent years. Subtle improvements to the surrounding historic park will also be required. The project is planned to start on site next year.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland

Source: Image by Malcolm Reading Consultants \ David Springford

Ross Bandstand

Ross Development Trust chair Norman Springford said: ‘This is a project for one of the most important places in Scotland and we want it to communicate the very essence of Edinburgh: a dynamic city with an unrivalled arts and cultural pedigree; a city that’s forward-looking while tuned into its history. We would like the pavilion to have an original design of international quality and significance that says “Edinburgh”.

‘Designers will need to be sensitive to context and historic setting, the castle being a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and the gardens having botanical, commemorative and civic interest. But the design for the new pavilion and the wider project must also communicate Edinburgh’s creative energies and international profile.’

The 12ha West Princes Street Gardens was created in the early 19th century by the draining of the historic Nor Loch during the construction of Edinburgh New Town. The city-centre park is situated beneath Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street and the Scottish National Gallery, and is home to many landmark features including the churches of St John’s and St Cuthbert’s.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland

Source: Image by Malcolm Reading Consultants \ David Springford

Ross Bandstand

The 2,400-capacity Ross Bandstand was designed by city architect E J Macrae in 1935, and is named after Distillers Company chair William Henry Ross who originally donated the open-air theatre to the city. An earlier structure was erected on the site by Kinnear and Peddie in 1877, and the first records of performances in the area date back to 1853.

Although extended and modernised several times, the existing Ross Bandstand is now only occasionally opened to the public. A previous contest to regenerate the structure was launched 10 years ago but abandoned due to a lack of money. The latest project is backed by public and private funds.

Competition director Malcolm Reading said: ‘This is a site with strategic position, a rich and varied topography, not to mention a 900-year-old castle on hand. A pavilion offers designers one of the ultimate creative tests: the potential to create a world-within-a-world.

‘The competition will create not only a civic emblem but also a living entity, a much-needed platform at the heart of the city, for national and local events, to re-energise this valued green space.’

Participating architect-led teams must hold expertise in landscape design, engineering, heritage, planning, lighting design, theatre design, acoustics and accessibility. Applicants must complete an online form detailing their proposed team and previous experience during the competition’s first round.

Up to five teams will then be invited to develop concept designs during the contest’s second stage starting in March. The finalists’ designs will feature in a public exhibition before the overall winner is announced in August.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for applications is 2pm, 13 March.

Contact details

Jayne Broomhall
Malcolm Reading Consultants
29 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
London
WC2A 3EG

Email: rosspavilion@malcolmreading.co.uk
Tel: + 44 (0)20 7831 2998

Visit the competition website for more information

Virginia Water Pavilion case study: Q&A with Alan Stanton

The director of Stanton Williams Architects discusses lessons learned designing a visitor centre and café for Virginia Water in southern England

How did your competition-winning Virginia Water Pavilion project create an appropriate facility for the Grade I-listed landscape of Windsor Great Park?

Every project of course has its own opportunities and challenges. We spend a lot of time thinking about the context and trying to harness the key elements into a form; an expressive form that eventually pulls it all together and energises the site. At Virginia Water, the location is a gateway to Windsor Great Park with a wonderful prospect over the water. There was already a highly successful caravan there serving teas and coffees, so we knew that visitor facilities were needed. We felt that the new building should sit lightly on the landscape, and invented a double winged form (originally planned to be built in two phases) that would act as a gateway and provide toilets, café etc.

England

England

Virginia Water Pavilion by Stanton Williams

Which architectural, material and other methods did you harness?

Windsor Great Park had a plentiful supply of timber and so it was natural to build the whole thing in wood (admittedly with some internal steelwork for the enormous cantilevers!) After we had gained planning permission (not an easy thing to do on a greenfield site) and begun to detail the building, the client very regrettably decided to hand the whole thing over to a contractor and dispense with the architect to save on fees. Nevertheless, we believe that this project will welcome, engage and draw people to Virginia Water, enhancing a unique place that people can enjoy visiting time and again.

England

England

Virginia Water Pavilion by Stanton Williams