Grass covers the roof of the pavilion to create an additional performance space in a design by London architects Flanagan Lawrence which puts greenery at the heart of their vision.
Competition judges will whittle down a winning entry from seven competing visions for the £25 million project, with a winner to be announced in August.
And with a back catalogue of delivering sleek performance and public amphitheatre designs, Flanagan Lawrence – with Gillespies, Expedition Engineering, JLL, Arup and Alan Baxter – is excited about the prospect of creating an international stage with an “astonishing backdrop”.
Hidden beneath the garden-topped pavilion is a sweeping glass front which encloses a 200-seat auditorium and can slide away to open the stage and wings to the amphitheatre.
The pavilion also includes a statement roof canopy which can also open to enhance the stage – addressing the venue’s need to be “remarkably flexible”.
Events range from intimate indoor events for 200 and up to 8000 for Hogmanay and everything in between, and the nature of the stage designed by Flanagan Lawrence allows each event “to feel right in the space”.
Director Jason Flanagan said from the project’s inception, creating more green space was one of the team’s primary objectives.
“During the briefing session there was a strong desire to create more greenery,” he said. “The existing terraces are concrete and the idea of taking them away and creating more greenery made a lot of sense, so we continued with that theme.”
And, from there, the design evolved as the creation of not just a building but a landscape.
“The building is a land form housing a visitor centre and the stage,” Mr Flanagan explained. “When you look back from the Old Town or from the Castle, largely what you see is greenery – we have returned the garden back to the green bowl – but when it needs to, it becomes this hugely active event space.”
Mr Flanagan believes the final design is a reflection of the extrovert character of Edinburgh through the summer and winter festivals; and the more calm, introvert, personal city that exists the rest of the year.
“That was the biggest challenge of the brief,” he admitted. “Dealing with the contrasts of the gardens themselves as a place of separation between two parts of the city but also a space that brings people together. It’s got to be both subtle and ‘wow!’.”
The designs of all seven shortlisted firms are on display in a free-to-enter exhibition at the City Art Centre, Wednesday-Sunday from 10am-6pm until July 30. The public are invited to share their views on the project via a survey at the exhibition or by e-mailing the competition organisers, Malcolm Reading Consultants, at email@example.com.