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Nicoll Russell to build visitor centre inside huge horse's head

Dundee-based Nicoll Russell Studios has won the £1 million RIAS-run competition to design a visitor centre within a horse’s head monument near Falkirk

The practice has been appointed to design an internal public space for one of two 30 metre-high horse head sculptures designed by sculptor Andy Scott.

The scheme was chosen for its ‘use of light, space and strength of visual elements’ according to a statement.

The two monuments – named ‘The Kelpies’ after Scotland’s mythical Loch-inhabiting water horses – are part of a £41 million revamp of land between Falkirk and Grangemouth.

Called the Helix Project, the 300-hectare programme – backed by the Helix Trust in partnership with Falkirk Council – features a lagoon, woodland areas, public artworks, footpaths and a cycle network.

RIAS Consultancy director Brian Moore said: ‘The calibre and level of response to the competition was overwhelming and myself and the other judges had a tough time trying to shortlist five let alone decide on a winner.

‘Ultimately, we were looking for a practice whose designs best met the objectives of the wider project and which would deliver an architecturally outstanding but realistic proposal within the given budget.’

Nicoll Russell Studios partner Andy Baxter said: ‘Winning this design competition against an international field is a superb accolade and we are delighted with the outcome. It reinforces the profile of our practice, continuing a string of success across the UK and we are looking forward to seeing the designs move from the drawing board into reality.’

Andy Scott said: ‘It was a tough decision but for me, I could see how the internal space and visitor centre would work together. These are exciting times and I am delighted by both the prospect of seeing the designs come to life and to the contract being awarded to a Scottish company with an international reputation for excellence.’

Nicoll Russell Studios' competition-winning The Kelpies visitor centre project near Falkirk in Scotland

Nicoll Russell Studios’ competition-winning The Kelpies visitor centre project near Falkirk in Scotland

Helix Project programme director Mike King said: ‘This is a great result and demonstrates the quality and strength of architecture and design in Scotland.

‘Nicoll Russell Studios’ designs are dynamic and engaging and showed a clear understanding of the requirements of the brief, set against the backdrop of the wider project objectives. The Helix is amongst the most exciting transformation programmes under way in the UK right now and one of our key aims is to create a unique multi-visitor experience that will firmly establish the project as a “must see” destination on the national and international tourism map.’

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