It looks like there might be even more to see and do in Edinburgh this summer thanks to a new £25 million project in the pipeline.
A competition taking place to design a brand new outdoor concert area for Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens has led to the unveiling of a whole host of incredible ideas. The £25 million project involves seven teams from all over the world competing to replace the well-known Ross Bandstand (originally opened in 1935) and its amphitheatre, which most will admit has seen better days.
Visions for the replacement span several different features and styles, including dramatic walkways and new visitor centres that can be accessed from Princes Street. The City Art Centre is hosting the competing designs for the public to pass judgement on and give their thoughts, but ultimately a panel of experts will be deciding an a winner – expected to be announced in August 2017.
Edinburgh city council has allowed a charitable trust to take over running the gardens in order to raise funding for the project, which includes landscaping improvements to the gardens themselves. Work is set to get underway by the end of next year.
The new area will be open to the public and there are also plans to host everything from major celebrations at Hogmanay and the Edinburgh International Festival to more intimate events once the construction is complete.
Founder of the Apex Hotels group Norman Springford has been in discussion with the city council for years about reviving West Princes Street Gardens.
He said: “The revival of one of Edinburgh’s best and most prominent sites is a hugely exciting prospect and we now have seven fascinating design concepts from some of the world’s most in-demand creative minds. The concepts will be assessed in detail and the public will get their chance to comment. The jury will interview the teams and review and debate each submission in turn.
“This isn’t just about providing a new concert venue. It’s about enhancing the whole gardens. We recognise it is Edinburgh’s park. It is not for any group of individuals to say ‘this is what we are having.’ That’s why we are consulting far and wide and will take all the feedback into account.
“I think we’ll get a good winner out of what we’ve got. There is clearly still a long process ahead once the winning design is chosen, including consultations with the heritage sector and the council’s planners, as well as with the designers themselves, but we are hopeful work will be finished in 2019."
Other prominent figures have also expressed their excitement. Edinburgh’s Lord Provost Frank Ross said: “The global response to the competition reaffirms the worldwide interest a city like Edinburgh commands. It really is exciting to see the possibilities for the Ross Pavilion unfold and on display in the City Art Centre. We welcome all thoughts and comments from our citizens on the shortlisted schemes. One of these designs is set to become one of Edinburgh’s most important new venues.”
Others who have seen the current bandstand in action are eagerly awaiting an upgrade. Vic Galloway, BBC Radio Scotland broadcaster, said: “In my work as a BBC presenter I've been lucky enough to compère the main stage at Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations on that very stage in front of thousands, and had an absolute blast.
"Despite this, I've always thought the space was criminally underused for music and entertainment, so I'm glad to hear there are plans to develop something more permanent in such an iconic setting.”
Bruce Findlay, former Simple Minds manager, said: "There is no doubt the bandstand badly needs a makeover, but it must remain an attractive 'people's space' to be used by the community first and at special times for Hogmanay and maybe summer concerts like those in Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow.
"I don't see this space as 'our' Hydro but as something unique more like a 'Greek Theatre' or 'Hollywood Bowl’ — but quintessentially Edinburgh."
The competition attracted 125 entries from across the globe, and designers from Japan, Norway, America and Denmark are all in the running to have their design chosen for Princes Street Gardens.
And these entrants are no amateurs, with many of them already boasting extensive portfolios. Those vying for the project include the architects behind London’s iconic Shard, the firm behind the rebuilding of the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building, a business school in Moscow, a maritime museum in Denmark and a Smithsonian museum in Washington.
wHY Architecture is an American practice which has the support of actor Alan Cumming behind their bid, having previously worked on a public art project in Chicago with Yoko Ono. Meanwhile, Page/Park is behind the revival of the Glasgow School of Art after the devastating fire in 2014. They also helped reopen Kelvingrove Bandstand.
Adjaye Associates are a London-based firm who worked on the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. They are up against another London architect, William Matthews, who is the man behind The Shard. For his design, he’ll be teaming up with Sou Fujimoto — another architecture firm, this time based in Tokyo.
Whichever contestant wins, the new addition to Edinburgh’s already thriving city centre is sure to bring even more life, excitement and culture to Scotland’s capital. The outdoor concert area will be known alongside some of the other incredible outdoor sites and activities Edinburgh has to offer.
There is no better way to take in the whole of Edinburgh than to view it from the peak of Arthur’s Seat. This short, steep climb is the perfect way to introduce yourself to Edinburgh or just remind yourself of what a fantastic city is truly is.
A new concert area will be fabulous, but West Princes Street Gardens is already a fantastic place to take a stroll. Both these gardens and the famous Meadows are a great way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the high street. You can even enjoy a coffee or an ice cream as you take in the views.
For all nature lovers out there, the Royal Botanical Gardens are a must-see spot. With such a diverse range of stunning plants on show, even the least green-thumbed among us can appreciate the beauty of these unique gardens.
Travel a little outside the city centre and you can enjoy the majestic Pentland Hills Regional Park. Challenge yourself by climbing some of the mighty peaks (the highest of which is Scald Law at 1,900 feet) and immerse yourself in a perfect cocktail of history and nature.
Bask in the idyllic surroundings of the Water of Leith with a gentle stroll along the canal. You can walk as little or as far as you like, and be sure to keep an eye out for swans floating serenely on the water.
What makes spending a day exploring Edinburgh even better? Having a luxury apartment to come home to at the end of it. Book a tour of a Quartermile property today by calling 0845 000 2525.