June 14, 2019

Custom Lane recently hosted an insightful and inspiring evening with Mark Thomman of wHY Architecture in May 2019 as part of the Talks at the Lane series.

Listen to the talk here:

wHY is an interdisciplinary design practice dedicated to serving the arts, communities, culture and the environment. Based in the USA, they encompass architects, landscape designers, makers and strategic thinkers, contributing towards the ideas, buildings, objects and grounds that reflect the wHY working method.

wHY are the lead for the team that won the competition to redevelop the Ross Pavilion in West Princes St Gardens, Edinburgh, now known as the Quaich Project. Mark Thomman is the landscape director at wHY, and was able to offer a unique insight into the winning design. Beginning at the start of his own design journey, Mark shared details of other recent work that the firm has been involved with, including the lessons learnt that have led the company to their first European project: The Quaich Project.

The Quaich Project aims to bring people together to celebrate Edinburgh’s status as one the world’s most beautiful, welcoming and vibrant capitals – generating new connections both locally and internationally. The project team is a reflection of this , with collaboration from GRA/S, Arup, Studio Yann Kersalé, O Street, Stuco, Creative Concern, Noel Kingsbury, Atelier Ten and Lawrence Barth with Alan Cumming, Aaron Hicklin, Beatrice Colin, Peter Ross, Alison Watson and Adrian Turpin.

The project has been a source of great excitement for the design team as a whole, as well attracting a lot of attention locally and internationally. Mark highlighted that the biggest driver of the project is the balance between providing a world-class venue for concerts and events, yet also maintaining a garden space that doesn’t visually compete with its context. The balance, Mark explains, comes from attention to detail.

“We have been told multiple times: it’s not a park, it is a garden. Therefore, it is not so much about recreational activity, but more about the passive experience that the garden can offer”
Mark Thomman, wHY Landscape Director

The project delicately balances garden and events, but as a whole it can be seen as a performance of its own

Mark explains that 80% of the programme that they are looking to implement will be small scale. There are challenges to adding in the facilities required to support some of these shows, but by making some key distinctions the balance of garden and function is easier to manage. For example, the seating is not closed off and separate – the garden continues to flow through, along with the circulation and sight-lines. Accessibility is critical. This garden will always straddle the balance between local and visitor due to its nature, history and location. This is where the design can help with the logistical problems, by building the infrastructure that allows for versatility. Function becomes integrated, allowing for an intimate venue that has scalability, but day-to-day it works seamlessly as a garden dwelling.

The talk was followed with a time for questions and debate, with all ages and backgrounds able to offer their own opinions. It was definitely a lively discussion and we would like to thank everyone for taking part and highlighting the significance of this project.

This talk was the sixth in the current season of Talks at the Lane. Please do come and share a drink and some thoughts with us for the remainder of the season. More information can be found here.