The Quaich Project in Edinburgh

WHY was selected the winner of an international competition to redesign the landmark Ross Pavilion and surrounding parkland of West Princes Street Gardens. Located on a UNESCO world heritage site, the project requires a highly sensitive approach to reviving an important public space at the heart of the city. Our response applies practices of wilding to restore the Scottish landscape, creating a synthesis of structural design and organic growth; rather than designing a “building in a park,” we set out to design a park which defines the architecture.

Key info
Design Architect
Executed by Workshop HY Architecture & Design DPC
Edinburgh, Scotland
  • 2017 - Ongoing
  • 16 acres
Masterplanning, Site and Building Programming, Stakeholder Engagement, Urban and Landscape Design, Architectural Design
Selected Press

Collectively known as The Quaich Project, a reference to the traditional Scottish sharing cup, the development is characterized by an ethos of collaboration and wide-ranging public engagement. Located at the intersection of the city’s old and new towns, the site serves as the foreground of the city’s most iconic landmark, Castle Rock. It is an area of unique cultural, historical, and ecological importance, and extensive engagement with stakeholders – among them, local residents, civic leaders, art consultants, horticulturists and historians – was crucial to our strategy of re-integrating a biodiverse Scottish landscape.

The winning design proposes an organic scheme which activates four layers of meaning within the gardens: botanical, civic, commemorative, and cultural. Inspired by the geology and history of the gardens – from the volcanic forces which shaped Castle Rock, to the societal energy of the Victorian pleasure garden – the design positions the new visitor center and the butterfly pavilion within the folds of the landscape. The gardens are further activated by the introduction of a new undulating promenade, transformed access from Princes Street, sculptural seating, and dynamic open views. The "invisible architecture" of the pavilion allows the castle to preside as the main architectural event, subtly recalibrating the relationship between the natural world and the built environment.

West Princes Street Gardens is marked by deep seams and scars – the valley, the crags, the railway, and the divide between the old and the new towns. We wanted to celebrate the park’s placement and topography while also engaging in a process of urban healing. By pinpointing existing issues – the limited access from Princes Street, the difficulty of navigating the steep valley, the interrupted flow of the gardens, and the lack of experiential diversity – we were able to create a design which highlighted the most powerful aspects of the space, carefully reintegrating the parts into a healthy whole.

Local Architect
  • GRAS
Historic Preservationist
  • Groves-Raines Architects
Civil, Structural, MEP, and Acoustical Engineer
  • ARUP
Urban Strategist
  • Lawrence Barth
Lighting Consultant
  • Studio Yann Kersalé
Identity & Graphics
  • O Street
Heritage and Engagement Specialist
Related projects