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Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Announces Architect Contest Winner

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh [RBGE], in association with the RIAS Consultancy from the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, today announced the winner of the competition to select an architect for its new visitor gateway facility. Edward Cullinan Architects based in London, are now commissioned to develop designs for its first-ever purpose built visitor facility at the West Gate [Arboretum Place] entrance to the Garden.

Professor Stephen Blackmore, RBGE Regius Keeper, said;

"This is a really exciting time for us. Over 660,000 visitors come to the Garden each year. Many are unaware that we are a world leader in plant research and global conservation. With a new visitor facility we will have the chance to explain the importance of plants and the important role of RBGE. I am delighted Edward Cullinan Architects have been appointed and all of us at the Garden look forward to collaborating with them in the development of an iconic building that will have all the facilities that you would expect from one of the world's major heritage sites".

Established in 1670 as a physic garden beside Holyrood house before moving in 1820 to its present site at Inverleith [just one mile north of the City Centre], the Garden, which is the third most visited attraction in Edinburgh, occupies over 72 acres and is home to over 15,500 plant species. Acknowledged to be one of the top five botanic gardens in the world, the RBGE primary remit is as an internationally renowned scientific centre dedicated to the study and conservation of plants.

Gordon Murray, President of the RIAS and one of the judges, added;

"This is a significant architectural competition for Scotland and accords well with the RIAS and Scottish Executive Architecture Policy objective of promoting competitions as a means of achieving design quality and of matching client ambitions with a suitable architect. It is an indication that the profession in Scotland is in good health with a local practice on the shortlist of four from an international field of stature. The purpose of the competition was to select an architect who understood the aspirations of the client and who could deliver a facility commensurate with the Gardens status as a visitor attraction and as an internationally renowned centre of excellence. We are sure that with Edward Cullinan Architects, RBGE have now found that architect."

Launched in April 2003, the competition saw over 60 submissions from all over Europe from which a shortlist of ten applicants was chosen before four finalists [Hopkins Architects, Edward Cullinan Architects, Wilkinson Eyre and Richard Murphy Architects], were asked to present ideas and design strategies.

Professor Blackmore continued;

"The high standard of final submissions was overwhelming which made the decision difficult but Edward Cullinan Architects demonstrated a clear understanding of what the Garden’s new visitor gateway must achieve. They considered the challenges that the facility needs to overcome, gave consideration to the sensitivities of its surroundings and understood that the facility should be a means to exploring our unique living collections".

The brief for the new buildings which will include innovative interpretation and orientation facilities, events spaces, restaurant and retail outlets is to be developed to design stage over the coming months.

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