Scottish Scenic Routes – New Architecture / Landscape Architecture Competitions

Today sees the launch of the third group of design competitions to be built as part of the widely acclaimed Scottish Scenic Routes initiative.

This pilot programme, funded by the Scottish Government, was launched in 2013 as a three year initiative intended to enhance the visitor experience of Scotland’s landscape through the creation of innovatively designed viewpoints and landscape features.

The initiative has three key aims:

1. to provide models /demonstration projects for new and innovative design and construction along Scotland’s Scenic Routes, thereby enhancing the country’s tourism infrastructure.

2. to support employment and the economies of rural communities in often remote parts of Scotland.

3. to showcase through design competition the best of Scotland’s recently qualified architects / landscape architects and to give the winning participants experience, mentoring and the chance to see these early career opportunities realized in full scale physical form.

The new group of design competitions focuses on three different locations: one just north of Fort William and a short distance from the A82 on the ‘Road to the Isles’ (A830) on land owned by Scottish Canals, whilst the other two sites are within the Cairngorms National Park adjacent to the A93 and A939 respectively. The competition challenges presented by each site are quite distinct –

The first competition site is at Banavie where Neptune’s Staircase, Scotland’s longest flight of canal lock gates, forms the entrance to the Caledonian Canal and the Great Glen and provides one of the finest views of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain. A unique marker structure / landscape treatment that can signify the entrance to the site and improve the legibility of the area to visitors is required, together with the possibility of a sister structure / installation that can act as an orientation and meeting point and / or as a recommended frame for photographs of the mountain.

The second site is at the Devil’s Elbow, a natural lay-by on the A93 and popular parking place for walkers intending to access the four Munros that lie west of Glenshee. Given the sheer scale and drama, the Devil’s Elbow location necessitates subtle engagement with the topography and geology of the surrounding landscape to deliver a design that will not only enhance the existing lay-by but also propose a strategy for its future overall development.

The third location on the A939 is on the northern outskirts of Tomintoul, a small, planned settlement that has strong claims to be the highest village in the Highlands. The site is a disused quarry that is used as a stopping place to access the natural viewpoint to the River Avon and the Cairngorm mountain range beyond. The competition’s primary objective here is for the existing informal viewpoint to be given new definition through the design of a unique structure / landscape installation. An overall strategy for the upgrading and future development of the lay-by is an integral part of the brief.

Steve Dunlop, Chief Executive of Scottish Canals, said: “Scotland’s canals are home to some of the nation’s most breath-taking scenery and we’re delighted that the waterways are playing a part in the Scenic Routes project.

“We know from the experience of Scandinavia that creating new and innovative opportunities for visitors to stop off and enjoy the landscape can significantly benefit the nation’s tourist economy. With the help of some of the finest young architectural talent in Scotland, I have no doubt this project will encourage even more people to explore the many wonders of the canal network.

“Banavie, which sits in the shadow of Ben Nevis and is home to the iconic lock flight of Neptune’s Staircase, is one of the jewels in the crown of the Caledonian Canal. I can’t wait to see how the competition’s designs celebrate the majestic vistas of the area.”

Information and full briefing materials for each of the three sites is now available on the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre’s website. The competition is open to architects and landscape architects who are still within five years of having completed RIBA Part II or the achievement of Graduate landscape Architect status.

The requirement for the first stage of each of the three competitions is for conceptual solutions only, these to be submitted in pdf format as a single outline proposal drawing at A1 equivalent size. Up to four entrants will be shortlisted for each of the three sites and invited to proceed to Stage Two. Those selected at this point will be required to develop their ideas in detail and to provide evidence that their designs are not only technically and financially robust, but can be fully delivered by the end of March 2016. The prize to the designer(s) of each the winning project’s is £5000.

Entrants can choose to provide ideas for one more of the competitions. First stage entries for all three sites are to be submitted by 31 August 2015. There is no entry fee required from those wishing to take part in these competitions.

“The Scottish Scenic Routes competition is a tremendous springboard into the profession and one that is a significant ‘leg-up’ into industry. A combination of the harsh economic climate, fewer potential commissions and an unbuilt portfolio of works all but slams the door shut on many young architects and landscape architects.

The sites identified and the competition brief offered a tantalizing opportunity to cut your teeth on a potentially live project. As competitions go, it has been very inclusive and also fair to the entrants by recognising the time and resources required by designers in order to produce a submission.

Personally I am excited at the prospect of numerous architectural interventions across Scotland that can enhance our appreciation or understanding of place. It can only be a good thing for Scotland’s economic and cultural development, both at home and overseas.“

The winning architect for the first phase pilot project site at Loch Lubnaig, Ruairidh Campbell Moir, sums up what the initiative has meant for him.

High-resolution images are available for all completed projects and can be obtained by contacting Hayley Stewart-Forbes at the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre by emailing scenicroutes@cs-ic.org.

Notes to Editors

  • The Scottish Scenic Routes initiative takes its inspiration from Norway’s National Tourist Routes and is intended to embrace cycle, rail, pedestrian and water routes as well as key roads travelled by tourists and visitors in all parts of Scotland. The Norwegian project recognized the enhanced economic benefit benefits the country’s tourism sector could derive from developing a series of modern and architecturally distinct stopping places along the routes most popular with travellers heading to major landscape and cultural attractions.
  • The strategic objectives of the Scottish Scenic Routes initiative are –
    i. To encourage more visitors to spend more time enjoying Scotland’s varied landscapes;
    ii. To create attractive visitor experiences by constructing site specific, high quality installations with strong visual impact;
    iii. To encourage visitors to leave their vehicles and experience landscape settings on foot;
    iv. To enhance and sustain rural communities and rural employment, with commensurate benefits to local services, schools, etc.;
    v. To create new opportunities for private sector investment in the tourism sector, e.g. new restaurants, hotels, etc.;
    vi. To promote high quality design through the creation of opportunities for recently graduated architects and landscape architects;
    vii. To create opportunities to demonstrate and test new and innovative construction products and systems developed in Scotland.
  • The pilot stage of the Scottish Scenic Routes initiative began in mid-2013 and will conclude at the end of March 2016.
  • Three-year funding for the Scottish Scenic Routes pilot programme was secured from the Scottish Government in 2013.
  • In addition to the Scottish Government, the programme partners are: Architecture + Design Scotland, the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Edinburgh Napier University, Forestry Commission Scotland, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs’ National Park Authority, Scottish Canals, Scottish Construction Innovation Centre, Scottish Natural Heritage, Sustrans, Transport Scotland and Visit Scotland.
  • Two of the three planned groups of design competitions have been completed, with all three winning projects (at Loch Lubnaig, the Falls of Falloch and Inveruglas) from the first stage competitions now constructed and the two winning projects from the second stage competitions (at Corgarff and Laggan) due to start on site shortly. A further project resulting from a Scottish Scenic Routes student design competition has been also completed and situated on land near to Balquhidder.

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