Ross Pavilion International Design Competition launches for emblematic Edinburgh site

  • Initiative will regenerate and renew nationally-important space at the heart of West Princes Street Gardens and within the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Architect-led teams asked to submit details of proposed team and experience at the competition’s first stage
  • Five or more finalists who reach the second stage will create concept designs for a new landmark Pavilion, a visitor centre with café, and subtle updates and improvements to the listed Gardens
  • First-stage submissions deadline March 13, 2017

The Ross Development Trust in collaboration with the City of Edinburgh Council and Malcolm Reading Consultants today launched a global search for an outstanding team of architects, landscape designers, engineers and other specialists for the new circa £25m Ross Pavilion and Gardens project in the heart of Edinburgh.

The Ross Pavilion International Design Competition will award the commission to regenerate and renew an emblematic site at the heart of West Princes Street Gardens, which is presently occupied by the Ross Bandstand.

This nationally-important space, perfectly positioned below Edinburgh Castle in the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh UNESCO World Heritage site and adjoining Edinburgh’s most famous shopping street, has become ‘a place for people’. It is the rallying point for some of Scotland’s most high-profile events and celebrations, notably Hogmanay and the Edinburgh International Festival’s closing fireworks concert.

The design challenge comprises a new landmark Pavilion, a visitor centre with café, and subtle updates and improvements to the surrounding Gardens, which are of outstanding cultural significance and operated and managed by the City of Edinburgh Council as Common Good Land. The Pavilion will host the kind of imaginative arts programming which Edinburgh excels in, from large to small scale events.

The Chairman of the Ross Development Trust and Competition Jury 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, 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.

“We all really look forward to being involved in this exciting public-private partnership.”

Malcolm Reading, Competition Director, 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.”

Full details of the project and how to enter the competition are available on the dedicated website.

The competition is being run according to EU procurement guidelines and the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2015. It is independently organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC). MRC specialises in competitions for museums and arts, heritage, and non-profit organisations and recently organised high-profile contests for the Illuminated River, the Museum of London and Tintagel Castle Bridge.

Established in 2016, the Ross Development Trust is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation whose purpose is to advance the appreciation and promotion of the arts, culture and heritage within West Princes Street Gardens, and through this, encourage the rejuvenation of Edinburgh city centre.

The Trust, which has committed a substantial gift towards the project, is raising funds from both private and public sources, and is working closely with the land owners, the City of Edinburgh Council, on this initiative. Other key project stakeholders include Edinburgh World Heritage, Historic Environment Scotland, the Edinburgh Festival, the Cockburn Association, and the Old Town Community Council.

Competition teams should be led by an architect and demonstrate expertise in landscape design, engineering, heritage and planning. Competitors will need to fill out the online form on the competition website and upload documents detailing their proposed team and experience.

The deadline for this is 14:00 GMT Monday, March 13, 2017. Teams selected for the second stage of the process will subsequently be invited to submit concept designs.

The shortlist of finalists is expected to be announced in March. A public and digital exhibition of concept designs will allow for local, national and visitor feedback and the winner will be announced in August 2017. Full details of the competition jury, which will be chaired by Norman Springford, will be announced later in the process, and will include representatives from the City of Edinburgh Council, local stakeholders, and specialists in the fields of architecture, urban design, and landscape design.

Construction is expected to begin in 2018.

Ross Development Trust media enquiries:
David Ellis
[email protected]
+44 7730 332470

Competition media enquiries:
Catherine Reading
[email protected]
+ 44 (0)20 7831 2998

Competition enquiries:
Jayne Broomhall
[email protected]
+ 44 (0)20 7831 2998

Competition images:
Sofia Fotaki
[email protected]
+44 (0)207 831 2998

Notes for editors

Ross Development Trust

The Ross Development Trust is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation, registered as a Charity in Scotland, and constituted to deliver significant regeneration in West Princes Street Gardens. The Trust is tasked with finding the capital required to fund the various projects within the Gardens, for the benefit of the City.

The Board of Trustees consists of individuals with a broad range of experience, sharing a personal ambition to improve the offering of West Princes Street Gardens. There will also be representation on the Board from the City of Edinburgh Council to ensure that the City’s interests are protected.

Project Background

The Ross Bandstand is located centrally within West Princes Street Gardens, and is framed by spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle. Records of live music performances on the site date back to 1853, with the first permanent structure, designed by architects Kinnear and Peddie, erected in 1877. This was replaced by the current structure – an open air theatre – built in 1935 and designed by city architect E J Macrae. The original building was gifted to the city by William Henry Ross, former chairman of the Distillers Company. The 1935 building has been upgraded and extended a number of times throughout the twentieth century.

In recent times the Bandstand has fallen into disrepair: the facilities do not meet today’s requirements and, as a result, this prominent site is not living up to its full potential. When not in use the site is closed to the public, restricting access through the Gardens and creating a void in one of the most visited green spaces in Scotland.

The ambition to replace the Bandstand dates back to 2004, when the current structure proved unable to withstand the intense storms experienced during the 2003 Hogmanay celebrations. The City of Edinburgh Council subsequently commissioned a feasibility study to explore options for the site, and make recommendations for overall improvements to the Gardens. A previous competition was launched in 2006, but the project was cancelled due to funding constraints.

About Malcolm Reading Consultants

Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC) is a strategic consultancy specialising in the selection of contemporary designers. MRC believes in the power of design to create new perceptions and act as an inspiration – either at the local level, or internationally.

MRC is the leading specialist in design competitions in Europe. Recent work includes competitions for the Illuminated River Foundation, the Museum of London, the gold medal-winning UK Pavilion at Milan Expo 2015, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Tintagel Castle Bridge, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s Culture & Education Quarter, the Mumbai City Museum, the Natural History Museum and New College, Oxford.