This project was one of five short-listed schemes in a two-stage, international competition to design the £1.0-million Kelpies Visitor Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland. The competition included the internal layout of one of the two giant, 30-metre-high sculptures of horses’ heads by Scottish figurative sculptor Andy Scott, and the design of a separate complementary visitor hub with retail and interpretation facilities, café, offices and washrooms. The Kelpies forms part of a wider park and canal project known as the “The Helix.”
Our project entitled Delayed Reaction Chamber describes a choreography of public architectural spaces that pace and slow down movement to make more suspenseful the revelation of the powerful scale and texture of the Kelpie and canal experience. The Hub, with its long, covered porch and continuous seating, is a linear perch to view the colossus-like Kelpies. Inside the Kelpie, a celestial experience is revealed slowly. At the ground floor, a giant oculus beckons as visitors are surrounded by the fritted, glass-lined chamber exhibiting famous, giant, local horses and their lore. Rising to the first floor, the insignificant size of the visitor is pit against the vast, sublime and seemingly ominous space of the horse’s head – like Jonah in the whale. Here, the platform is lined with a 27 metre-long cantilevered, warping and sweeping chaise lounge that twists around the space, offering a “stargazing” experience from many viewing positions.
The Hub presents an open-concept porch to the public space, and a dark and solid splaying form to the M9 Roadway – with giant light-slits as a directional vector to the Kelpies. The singular gestural roof is the centerpiece of the retail growth concept and provides a sheltered area for events, retail shoppers and café crowds. The Hub has the opportunity to develop like a market, with flexible space for future retail stands, temporary booths and larger, permanent concessions for food service, gift shopping, and boat and bike rentals.