A landscape-focused scheme which increases the overall green space within West Princes Street Gardens was key to the winning entry by the team led by wHY, which includes British horticulturist Noel Kingsbury, Edinburgh-based design studio GRAS and Glasgow-based architects, Groves-Raines Architects, Arup, Studio Yann Kersalé, O Street, Stuco, Creative Concern, Atelier Ten and Lawrence Barth.
The £25m competition attracted first-stage submissions from 125 teams, made up of 400 firms from 22 different countries.
At the competition’s second stage, shortlisted teams produced concept designs for a new landmark pavilion, a visitor centre with café and improvements to the surrounding gardens. The pavilion will become an arts and cultural venue and facilitate a series of events throughout the year.
The winning design was inspired by the gardens’ geology and history, from volcanic forces to the Victorian pleasure garden and positions the new visitor centre and a ‘Butterfly Pavilion’ into the folds of the landscape, keeping views of Edinburgh Castle.
The team described its design as "human scale with moments of drama… activating four layers of meaning within the gardens: botanical, civic, commemorative and cultural".
The jury praised the 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."
All the finalists’ schemes went on show to the public at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh from 21 June until 30 July 2017 and remain available to view online through the websites of the competition and the Ross Development Trust. The competition was organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants.
Competition jury chair Norman Springford said: "We are confident 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."
Edinburgh’s culture and communities convener councillor Donald Wilson added: "The chosen design makes the most of the natural surroundings of Princes Street Gardens and focuses on connecting people to the city, the stage and the view of Edinburgh Castle."
wHY is a collective of architects, landscape designers, makers and strategic thinkers, established in 2004 and with offices in New York and Los Angeles; the studio’s competition-winning entry was led by founder and creative director Kulapat Yantrasast and landscape design director Mark Thomann.
Thomann said: "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."
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.
The Ross Development Trust is working closely with the City of Edinburgh Council on the initiative. Historic Environment Scotland, the Cockburn Association, the Old Town Community Council and Edinburgh World Heritage.
wHY will now work with The Ross Development Trust, Edinburgh Council and other stakeholders, such as Historic Environment Scotland and consult with the public. Construction is expected to begin next year.