Seven contenders for revamp of Edinburgh's Ross Bandstand

The Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens has fallen out of use in recent years.
The Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens has fallen out of use in recent years.
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The firm leading the restoration of Glasgow School of Art’s iconic Mackintosh Building is in the running to create a new outdoor concert arena for Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens.

The firm leading the restoration of Glasgow School of Art’s iconic Mackintosh Building is in the running to create a new outdoor concert arena for Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens.

Glasgow-based architects Page/Park are one of seven contenders for the long-awaited project to replace the Ross Bandstand and overhaul facilities in the much-loved park.

However they face competition from the United States, Japan, Denmark and Norway for the right to lead the £25 million project. The finalists were drawn from 125 entries submitted from 22 countries around the world.

Each contender has until June to produce final designs, which will then go on public display before the winner is selected in August.

One American practice, Why, which has previously worked with Yoko Ono on a public art project for Chicago’s Jackson Park, has recruited actor Alan Cumming to support its bid, along with writers Aaron Hicklin and Beatrice Colin. The firm’s most recent work includes an overhauland expansion of Kentuckhy’s historic Speed Art Museum.

Copenhagen-based practice BIG was behind the design for the new Danish Maritime Museum, while Oslo firm Reiulf Ramstad Architects designed a new waterfront attraction for the Selvika bay as part of a national tourist route in Norway.

London-based firm Adjaye Associates previously worked on the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington and the Moscow School of Management business school.

Another London architect, William Matthews, who has joined with Tokyo-based architect Sou Fujimoto to bid for the project, previously led the design of The Shard building in London.

Page/Park was appointed two years ago to head up the revival of the art school’s A-listed “Mack Building” after it suffered extensive fire damage in May 2014.

The firm also led the project to breathe new life into Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Bandstand, which reopened three years ago and is playing host to shows by Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson and sixties superstar Sir Tom Jones this summer.

The Ross Development Trust, which was set up by Apex Hotels founder Norman Springford to pursue the bandstand development, will announce the winning design for the new arena in August.

Author Alexander McCall Smith, who writes the 44 Scotland Street series for The Scotsman, and Sir Mark Jones, a former director of the National Museum of Scotland, will be on the judging panel, which will be chaired by Mr Springford.

The historic arena, which dates back to 1877 and was last overhauled in 1935, hosts major events during the Edinburgh International Festival and over Hogmanay.

But last year it was branded “no longer fit for purpose” by Edinburgh City Council, which agreed to join forces with Mr Springford - who has pledged £5 million towards the project - to get a replacement off the ground. It is hoped work will get under way next year ahead of a planned 2020 opening.

A chunk of Princes Street Gardens is also expected to be carved out for a new underground complex with a 200-capacity events space and cafe-bar overlooking the Castle and the new arena.

Mr Springford said: “The quality of the 125 teams on the long list sent a strong signal that the international design community regards this as an inspirational project for Edinburgh that has huge potential to reinvigorate this prestigious site.

"Selecting the shortlist with our partners from the city council was an intense and demanding process. We’re thrilled that our final shortlist achieved a balance of both international and UK talent, emerging and established studios.”

Richard Lewis, culture leader at the city council, said: “The response to the competition’s first stage affirms the worldwide interest in Edinburgh and its association with the arts.

“Scotland’s capital is renowned as the world’s festival city and the home of culture - and designers clearly want to be part of its future.

“The brief at stage two asks for a serious piece of architecture but one that’s also celebratory – it will be fascinating to see what concepts the teams produce.”