Options for new outdoor Edinburgh concert arena revealed

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Contenders to design a new outdoor concert arena for Edinburgh in Princes Street Gardens have revealed their competing visions for the £25 million project.

Seven teams from around the world are in the running to replace the historic Ross Bandstand and its run-down amphitheatre.

The Danish Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) previously worked on a new Serpentine art gallery in London.

The Danish Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) previously worked on a new Serpentine art gallery in London.

The various visions include dramatic walkways and roofs around the new arena, along with new visitor centres accessible from Princes Street

The rival design are on display at the City Art Centre, where members of the public can deliver their own verdicts on their favourites.

However a panel of experts, chaired by the hotel developer who is bankrolling the new “Ross Pavilion,” will decide the winner of the international completion, which is due to be announced in August.

The city council has agreed to allow a charitable trust to take over the running of the gardens and raise all the funding for the project. It is hoped work will get underway on the project, which includes a new visitor centre and landscaping improvements to the gardens, by the end of next year.

British architect William Matthews, who led the design of the Shard, has joined forces with Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto for his Edinburgh concept.

British architect William Matthews, who led the design of the Shard, has joined forces with Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto for his Edinburgh concept.

Architects behind the Shard building in London, the rebuilding of Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building, a Smithsoninan museum in Washington, a business school in Moscow and a Danish maritime museum are all in contention.

Designers based in America, Japan, Norway and Denmark are all in the running for the project, which attracted 125 entries from around the world.

The new arena would be open daily to the public, but is also aimed at hosting everything from intimate shows for several hundred people to the signature events at the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay festivities.

Norman Springford, founder of the Apex Hotels group, has been in talks with the city council for several years about reviving the fortunes of West Princes Street Gardens by replacing the existing bandstand, which opened in 1935.

British firm Ajaye's track record includes a Smithsoninan museum in Washington and a business school in Moscow.

British firm Ajaye's track record includes a Smithsoninan museum in Washington and a business school in Moscow.

Mr Springford 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."

The Flanagan Lawrence group is already working on plans for a new music centre in St Andrews.

The Flanagan Lawrence group is already working on plans for a new music centre in St Andrews.

Frank Ross, Edinburgh's Lord Provost, 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 short-listed schemes. One of these designs is set to become one of Edinburgh’s most important new venues.”

American practice wHY has previously worked with Yoko Ono on a public art project for Chicago’s Jackson Park, has recruited actor Alan Cumming to back its bid.

London-based firm Adjaye Associates previously worked on the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. Another London architect, William Matthews, who has joined forces with Tokyo-based architect Sou Fujimoto, led the design of The Shard.

Page/Park is masterminding the revival of Glasgow School of Art’s “Mack Building” after it suffered extensive fire damage in May 2014 and helped reopen Kelvingrove Bandstand.

Glasgow-based Page & Park Architects previously worked on the revival of Kelvingrove Bandstand in Glasgow.

Glasgow-based Page & Park Architects previously worked on the revival of Kelvingrove Bandstand in Glasgow.

BBC Radio Scotland broadcaster Vic Galloway said: "In my work as a BBC presenter I've been lucky enough to compere 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.

"However, I just hope those making the ultimate decision consider that this park does actually belong to the people of Edinburgh, so proper care and consultation must be taken before any firm plans are laid and construction begins.

"Although there is huge scope for a wonderful architectural and cultural addition to the city, there is also the potential to create an ill-fitting eyesore that ruins what already looks beautiful and suits the space that we all know and love."

Former Simple Minds manager Bruce Findlay 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."

Norwegian firm Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter is one of seven contenders for the project.

Norwegian firm Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter is one of seven contenders for the project.

wHY's bid has been backed by actor Alan Cumming.

wHY's bid has been backed by actor Alan Cumming.