The Scottish Scenic Routes initiative has announced a trio of design competitions for its latest batch of £60k pilot installations
The contests – organised by the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre – are open to young architects and landscape architects within five years of completing their RIBA Part II or graduating.
Launched in 2013, the high-profile £1.5 million pilot programme aims to boost tourism and rural employment by creating new road-side visitor attractions.
Three competition-winning pilot installations by BTE Architecture (Loch Lomond), John Kennedy (Falls of Falloch) and Ruaraidh Campbell Moir (Loch Lubnaig) have already been completed.
Two further contest-winning schemes by John Kennedy (Corgarff) and Sean Douglas with Gavin Murray (Laggan) are meanwhile due to start on site shortly.
The latest competitions include a site in Banavie overlooking Ben Nevis at the start of the Caledonian Canal on the A830 – which is known as the ‘Road to the Isles’ – near Fort William.
The two remaining plots – both inside Cairngorms National Park – comprise the Devil’s Elbow A93 lay-by and a disused quarry near Scotland’s highest village, Tomintoul.
Competitions for the Banavie and Devil’s Elbow sites were launched last year but abandoned because ‘the two sites did not attract sufficient quality in the entries to allow them to be taken forward for shortlisting’.
According to the latest brief: ‘The projects are intended to showcase the best of Scotland’s young design talent and to give the winning participants experience, mentoring and the chance to see these early career opportunities realized in full scale physical form.’
The document continued: ‘A further aim of the completed projects is to support employment and community economies in rural parts of the country.’
Campbell Moir commented: ‘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 un-built portfolio of works all but slams the door shut on many young architects and landscape architects.’
He continued: ‘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.’
Participants must submit a single A1-sized conceptual proposal during the competition’s first round and may apply for more than one site.
Four entrants will then be shortlisted for each plot and invited to further develop their proposals during the contest’s second round.
The deadline for submissions is 24 August.
How to apply
Full competition details will be announced on the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre website on 10 August
Comment by Peter Wilson, director of The Wood Studio at Edinburgh Napier University’s Institute for Sustainable Construction
Sites at Banavie and the Devils’ Elbow were offered in the second round of competitions, but the actual location(s) at Banavie are different on this occasion since it is a very spread out area with several locations suited to the scale and budget of Scenic Route projects. The area does however presents considerable design challenges (adjacent listed structures, varied ground conditions, etc) and on reflection the judges took the view that entrants for the previous site specified found some difficulty with it as the brief perhaps lacked sufficient specificity as to what type of project was being sought. The organisers have therefore returned to this location (but not the same site) with a more precise definition of requirements. Likewise the site at the Devil’s Elbow, which is a very remote and exposed location requiring an innovative solution responsive to the scale and drama of the surrounding landscape but which is robust enough to withstand the worst the weather and ne’er-do-wells can throw at it. The organisers also recognised that the tight programme for the previous competitions for these locations mitigated against many entrants being able to visit the sites and thus not perhaps fully appreciating what might be achieved within the relatively limited budgets available (which have been increased for this phase of competitions), especially as, in these remoter parts of the country, building seasons are short and local contracting capacity can often be limited.
As regards the briefs, each of the three competition sites potentially has some kind of lookout function, but could involve shelter and site identifiers to attract visitors. The organisers have endeavoured not to be too prescriptive as they wish to encourage a broad a range of ideas and design solutions. A fundamental aim of the Scottish Scenic Routes initiative is to provide (as many as possible) small, manageable opportunities together with mentoring and construction experience for recently qualified design talent. A great deal of time has been (and continues to be) spent identifying and negotiating suitable sites for the Scottish Scenic Routes initiative and there is no question that each of these particular locations presents an outstanding architectural and landscape challenge: it’s up to others now to respond with outstanding designs!