Design Competition

Have your say on the next steps for West Princes Street Gardens including the Ross Bandstand

By | Design Competition, Friends of the gardens, General, Ross Fountain, Ross Pavilion

Views are being sought from the public on the Council and Ross Development Trust’s proposals to enhance West Princes Street Gardens.

An online consultation has opened today (Tuesday 26 June) with the first drop-in session set to take place on Wednesday 18 July at the Assembly Rooms on George Street.

The ‘West Princes Street Gardens Project’ proposes to invest in facilities to provide a cherished space for both residents and visitors. It aims to enhance the experience of users while ensuring the gardens remain a beautiful and accessible asset under public ownership. To date, work has completed on the project’s restoration of the historic Ross Fountain and refurbishment of the Gardener’s Cottage, thanks to donations raised by the charitable Ross Development Trust.

The next phase in the project is consultation to gauge public support of the proposals, which will be fed back within a report to Council.

Over the course of the next 12 weeks, the public will specifically be asked to feedback on what the gardens mean to them, proposed upgrades to infrastructure and new ALEO to look after the area, which would allow the new Ross Bandstand to be run by an arms-length organisation.

Councillor Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Sitting in the heart of the city, between the Old and New Towns under Edinburgh Castle, West Princes Gardens are a central part of civic life in the city. The gardens are an important public asset for all of Edinburgh to experience and it will remain in public ownership and under Council control, available for everybody to enjoy.

“If approved the ALEO would be established to ensure this remains the case, while allowing the flexibility for the Ross Development Trust and other important stakeholders to raise the required investment for the future pavilion and other key areas of infrastructure. I want to know how these plans sit with the citizens of Edinburgh, what they see as priorities for them and their Gardens and we want people to play a part in this vision.

“Since the Gardens are so central to daily Edinburgh life – it’s where we relax, play, eat and enjoy incredible live events – I’m sure many people will want to have their say and join us on this journey towards revitalising the area.”

David Ellis, Managing Director of The Ross Development Trust, said: “This consultation period allows us a great opportunity to provide people with more detailed information about our work in West Princes St Gardens. Receiving feedback from the public will be extremely beneficial to the project as we continue to move forward.”

Face-to-face meetings will also take place with key stakeholders during the consultation period, which runs until the 14 September 2018.

Winning concept for Edinburgh’s new Ross Pavilion revealed

By | Design Competition, General, Ross Pavilion

An international collaboration led by US-based design practice wHY and including Edinburgh-based design studio GRAS, has won the competition to revitalise West Princes Street Gardens.   

The announcement was made today (1st August, 2017) by the Ross Development Trust.  The £25M project, in collaboration with the City of Edinburgh Council, will include a new Ross Pavilion, set to become one of the most exciting performance spaces in the World.

The five-month search for an outstanding team for the £25m Ross Pavilion and West Princes Street Gardens project attracted first-stage submissions from 125 teams (made up of 400 firms) from 22 different countries. 

At the competition’s second stage, seven shortlisted teams produced concept designs for a new landmark Pavilion; a visitor centre with café; and improvements to the surrounding Gardens. The new Pavilion will provide a flexible platform for the imaginative arts and cultural programming that Edinburgh excels in, and allow visitors and residents to engage with a variety of events all year round.

Norman Springford, competition Jury Chair, was delighted with the whole process.  He 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.

‘We thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the shortlisted teams and understanding each approach.  However with wHY, they demonstrated an impressive collaboration which 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.  All of which were key aspects for us all and respected the importance of the space within a World Heritage Site.’ 

Gardens view of wHY's winning design for new Ross Pavilion

The competition jury met on July 11 to interview the seven teams shortlisted for this initiative, and unanimously selected wHY as the winner. Their team includes Edinburgh-based design studio GRAS, Groves-Raines Architects, Arup, Studio Yann Kersalé, O Street, Stuco, Creative Concern, Noel Kingsbury, Atelier Ten and Lawrence Barth.

Andy Neal, Trustee, The Ross Development Trust was delighted with the Jury’s decision.  He said: ‘It is always a tough job to select a winner when you have such a strong shortlist of entries.  The Trust is grateful to the Jury for their time and consideration in reaching a decision and selecting a winning design concept.

‘We are looking forward to working with wHY to develop our vision for West Princes Street Gardens.  Over the next few months, we will work with the design team and the people of Edinburgh to develop the brief for the Gardens.  It’s an exciting time for the City.’

The competition winners proposed an organic landscape-focused scheme that respects the historic setting but also animates the Gardens through the introduction of a new undulating promenade, transformed access from Princes Street, sculptural seating and dynamic open views.

 View of wHY model concept for new Ross Pavilion


Kulapat Yantrasast, Founder and Creative Director of wHY, 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, wHY’s Landscape Design Director, 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.”


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. 

Gunnar Groves-Raines, Director of GRAS, said:

“It is a true honour to be selected to deliver a project of this significance in the heart of our home town and to work as a central part of such a diverse and talented international design team.

Councillor Donald Wilson, Edinburgh’s Culture and Communities Convener, said:

“We have seen some of the most influential architects and landscapers join forces to compete to design the new Ross Pavilion. The huge international interest in the competition is testament to Edinburgh’s standing as one of the world’s most beautiful and creative settings for live performance.

“All of the shortlisted teams put forward fantastic ideas but wHY’s Butterfly concept received the jury’s collective support. The chosen design makes the most of the natural surroundings of Princes St Gardens and focuses on connecting people to the city, the stage and the view of Edinburgh Castle.

“It is hugely exciting to reach this stage of the project. Our thanks go to the Ross Development Trust for their vision and support and our congratulations to wHY on their winning design.”


Inspired by the Gardens’ geology and history – from the volcanic forces to the man-made energy of the Victorian pleasure garden – the design subtly positions the new visitor centre and the ‘butterfly’ Pavilion into the folds of the landscape, enabling the Castle to remain the main visual event. The scheme increases the amount of green space relative to hard surfaces with 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.’

Norman Springford added that the Jury had praised the winning 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.’

Malcolm Reading, Competition Director, said: 

“wHY is a creative force that has the rare skill of being able to produce design that is exciting yet also sensitive and humane – it is a delight to see them win so exuberantly.

“Their proposal is a landscape scheme that is really more like an energy-field: using animation and drama as well as open vistas, they transform the Gardens and create an experience that is much freer and organic. As is their style, they conscientiously sampled local opinion, and have come up with a design proposal that is engaging and refreshing.

“We would like to thank all the finalists for their hard work and enthusiasm – we were in no doubt over their connection to this wonderful project, and they produced diverse and well-reasoned concept designs.’


wHY, a collective of architects, landscape designers, makers and strategic thinkers with offices in Los Angeles and New York recently came to global attention with the opening of Los Angeles’ newest museum, the Marciano Art Foundation, which involved a sensitive and restrained redesign of the former Scottish Rite Masonic Temple.

According to the Los Angeles Times, wHY’s founder Kulapat Yantrasast, who is Thai-born and was educated in Japan, ‘is increasingly sought after in the cultural sphere for his ability to skilfully conjure environments that suit the needs of art’. wHY has worked on gallery design at the Art Institute of Chicago, helped overhaul the interior spaces at the Harvard Art Museums, and collaborated with Yoko Ono on her Skylanding project in the historic Olmsted-designed Jackson Park in Chicago.

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 Architects for ‘a memorable and delicate design that opened up unexpected views, particularly those to the Castle’.

The other five teams were led by Adjaye Associates; Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG); Flanagan Lawrence; Page \ Park Architects, West 8 Landscape Architects and BuroHappold Engineering; and Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter.

wHY will now work with the Ross Development Trust, the City of Edinburgh 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. Currently occupied by the Ross Bandstand, and described as a true ‘place for people’, it is both a refuge from daily city life and the focus for exhilarating celebrations, such as Hogmanay and the Edinburgh International Festival’s closing fireworks concert.

The competition was run according to EU procurement guidelines and the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2015.

The Ross Fountain; ten fascinating facts

By | Design Competition, Ross Fountain

Restoration of the Ross Fountain, an iconic landmark within the city’s West Princes Street Gardens, is now underway.

It’s a huge undertaking. 122 individual cast-iron pieces are being dismantled and removed over the next few weeks for a full restoration that will see the fountain returned and reassembled in full working order in the Gardens next summer. So, as the temporary screening goes up around the fountain site, here are ten fascinating facts about the Ross Fountain:

1. The Fountain was purchased as a gift to the city by Edinburgh gunsmith, Daniel Ross – “with inclination to art and science” – at the Great Exhibition of London in 1862.

2. It was erected in its present position in West Princes Street Gardens in 1872, but only after much wrangling over its position until the current site was agreed.

3. Ross himself never got to see the Fountain installed; he died the year before in 1871.

4. It was originally agreed that the fountain should operate only “on Sundays and when the band plays…”

5. Dean Ramsay, the mid-Victorian minister of St John’s Episcopal Church, on Princes Street said the amount of nudity in the sculptures was “grossly indecent and disgusting; insulting and offensive to the moral feelings of the community and disgraceful to the city”.

6. The female figures represent art, science, poetry and industry, whilst the figure on the top of the Fountain is holding a cornucopia.

7. It is from the world-famous foundry of Antoine Durenne, in Sommevoire Haute Marne in France.

8. The figures were sculpted by Jean-Baptiste Jules Klagmann, born April 1810, whose other work includes figures for the Louvre and fountains in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris.

9. The Fountain is a magnificent example of 19th century cast-iron work, in the neoclassical style commonly known as Beaux Arts.

10. It is one of only two A-listed cast iron fountains in the UK.

To find out more about how Ross Development Trust are undertaking the restoration of the Ross Fountain and the Trust’s broader project to revitalise West Princes Street Gardens. Learn more about the restoration of the Ross Fountain and find out how you can get involved with and support the Trust.


The Ross Pavilion Design Competition – Free exhibition of shortlisted designs

By | Design Competition, Ross Pavilion

An exhibition of shortlisted entries for the Ross Pavilion International Design Competition will be on public display at Edinburgh’s City Arts Centre Wednesday-Sunday each week from 21st June until 30th July.

Admission is free to the exhibition, which is housed on the Floor-1 Gallery of the Arts Centre building located at 2 Market Street, just behind Waverley Street Station. Edinburgh’s residents, and anyone with an affinity for West Princes Street Gardens, are invited to visit the exhibition and view designs and storyboards from the 7 architect-led teams whose entries are shortlisted.

Anyone visiting the exhibition will have the opportunity to provide the Ross Development Trust, who are running the competition, feedback on its plans to replace the Ross Bandstand and revitalise West Princes Street Gardens. Feedback forms will be available at the exhibition.

In addition, young children visiting the exhibition can take part in a fun contest to create their own design for a new Pavilion. The most interesting kids designs will be published on the Trust’s website and facebook.

From 21st June you can view the shortlisted designs online here on our website, where you’ll also be able to submit your views on plans to replace the Ross Bandstand with a new Pavilion and comment on the Trust’s plans to revitalise West Princes Street Gardens.

Here follows a brief overview of the Ross Pavilion contest, its place within a wider ambition to revitalise Edinburgh’s West Princes Street Gardens and an introduction to The Ross Development Trust, who are leading the project to improve Edinburgh’s much-loved Gardens on every level.


The Ross Bandstand, originally built in the 1870s and located centrally within West Princes Street Gardens, has fallen into disrepair and is no longer fit for purpose.The Ross Development Trust, whose wider plans are to lead a revitalisation of the Gardens, ran an International Design Competition to find a winning design for a replacement Pavilion.

The Trust is working in close partnership with the the City of Edinburgh Council, and with other key stakeholders such as Historic Environment Scotland, the Cockburn Association and Edinburgh World Heritage.

What the competition sets out to do:

  • Replace the old Bandstand with a new multi-use performance venue in the form of a Pavilion. To be known as the Ross Pavilion.
  • Remove the barrier and ‘dead-zone’ created by the old Bandstand to allow improved public movement year-round through the Gardens
  • Return large parts of what is a concrete void to garden use
  • Install a new Pavilion which is sensitive to the historic context and setting of the Gardens while also reflecting Edinburgh’s contemporary energies
  • Ensure the new Pavilion is accessible to residents and visitors alike and meets the needs of event promoters like the Edinburgh Festival

About the competition:

  • Competition sought an outstanding team of architects, landscape designers, engineers and other specialists for the new Ross Pavilion – estimated budget £25m
  • Competition overseen by Malcolm Reading Consultants on behalf of the Trust
  • Jury assembled by the Ross Development Trust included architects Ada Yvars Bravo, Malcolm Reading and Riccardo Marini, author Alexander McCall Smith and Sir Mark Jones, former Director of the National Museum of Scotland and the V&A
  • 125 teams (made up of 400 individual firms) entered the competition with over half the submissions coming from overseas
  • 7 finalist teams, each led by an architect, shortlisted 29th March 2017, with their design entries on public display from mid-June for 6 weeks

The Shortlist

The shortlisted designs are from teams led by the following architects:

  • Adjaye Associates (UK)
  • BIG Bjarke Ingels Group (Denmark)
  • Flanagan Lawrence (UK)
  • Page \ Park Architects (UK)
  • Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter (Norway)
  • wHY (USA)
  • William Matthews Associates (UK) and Sou Fujimoto Architects (Japan)

You can view more details of the shortlisted design here

For more information about the Ross Development Trust and our plans to revitalise West Princes Street Gardens, explore our website, like our facebook or follow us on twitter.

You can also:

subscribe to our e-news and we’ll keep you informed about our project

make a donation to help the Trust raise the vital funds for revitalising the Gardens.

volunteer your time to assist with our project.

Design Competition

By | Design Competition, General

The Ross Development Trust has commissioned Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC), the leading European specialist in design competitions, to devise and run a two-stage international design competition.

MRC is known for its ability to crystallise design briefs and inspire architects and other designers. It has a global following and is highly experienced in generating media interest. The consultancy’s recent successes include competitions for the Royal College of Art; the Illuminated River; the Museum of London; the gold medal-winning UK Pavilion at Milan Expo 2015; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; the Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art, and New College, Oxford.

The first stage of the competition will be an international search for a multi-disciplinary design team, based on relevant skills, past experience and an understanding of the project brief.

A selection panel will review these first stage submissions and shortlist five practices, who will be given a further briefing and asked to produce concept designs for the Bandstand. As part of a wide-ranging consultation process, the Trust will hold a public exhibition of the schemes and ask the public for their views.

An expert jury will be assembled to assess concept designs, conduct interviews and select a winner.

Design Competition
Malcolm Reading Consultants MRC

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