Dezeen Magazine

Road-side view of the colourful entrance at Walk-Up Avenue by New Practice

Walk-Up Avenue is a public space for locals to "take ownership of" ​in Edinburgh

Architecture studio New Practice has transformed an unused site in the town centre of Craigmillar, Edinburgh, into a multi-purpose public space for the local community.

Named Walk-Up Avenue, the site comprises a flexible events space, green-roofed stage, communal garden, cafe and play areas that residents and community groups can use freely.

Walk-Up Avenue colourful timber batten "beacon"
A tall timber structure marks the entrance

The space was constructed for the City of Edinburgh Council to support small businesses and become a recognisable meeting point in the area.

"Walk Up Avenue aims to create a welcoming and colourful space for the local community to come together and take ownership of for many years to come," said New Practice.

Green-roof stage and event plaza in Craigmillar
Walk-Up Avenue includes a stage and events space for locals to use

The site of Walk-Up Avenue is located next to a retail park, set back from the main road behind an existing play area.

Its entrance connects the plot to the playpark and guides visitors away from the road towards a planted area with picnic tables.

Colourful entrance structure made from timber battens
The "beacon" entrance is made from timber battens

According to New Practice associate Maeve Dolan, Craigmillar's high street had become disjointed with stretches of inactive frontage.

To remedy this, the studio designed a brightly-coloured nine-metre-tall "beacon" made from timber battens to mark the entrance to Walk-Up Avenue.

Entrance structure and steel-clad cafe of Walk-Up Avenue by New Practice
A steel-clad commercial unit was added to help activate the high street

"We needed something big, bright and intriguing which clearly signalled a community use," Dolan told Dezeen.

"It's been labelled as the 'beacon' on our drawings since the beginning because that's what we wanted it to act as to passersby, both those on-foot and moving at speed on the busy main road."

Stage and events space designed by New Practice
The plaza includes seating and box planters

Also at the newly transformed site is a steel-clad structure with a flexible interior and cafe amenities, which New Practice designed for local businesses to help increase activity on the high street.

The building is leased to the Trade Unions in Communities (TUIDC), which intends to run the cafe and use the space to organise educational and employment programmes.

Further into the plot are a green-roofed stage and a plaza with box planters and seating, which neighbourhood groups are encouraged to use to organise their own events.

"Walk-Up Avenue is about creating a lively town-centre gathering place," said Dolan.

"It is not a prescriptive space but instead provides the foundational infrastructure that invites the community to make use of it as they require, whether that be for rest, socialising, play, exercise, performance, small-scale retail or growing and gardening," she continued.

Beacon timber entrance at Walk-Up Avenue by New Practice
The project was designed for the local Craigmillar community and visitors

With funding from the government agency NatureScot, infrastructure that helps to create wildlife habitats and prevent flooding was incorporated into the landscaping, including rain gardens, swales, sustainable drainage systems and deep gutters that double as a drinking source for animals.

"The blue-green infrastructure was funded by NatureScot with the aim to produce an educational space where people could see all of these items working together and understand their benefits," said Dolan.

View of play area in Craigmillar
The entryway connects Walk-Up Avenue with the neighbouring playpark

While offering a public space for local businesses and community groups to flourish, the space is hoped to support the wider regeneration of the Craigmillar area.

It also contributes to Edinburgh's 20-minute neighbourhood strategy, a scheme that aims to provide all local residents with access to amenities within a short walk or cycle from their homes.

Colourful timber batten structure with seating by New Practice
Seating is added throughout the project

The opening of Walk-Up Avenue coincided with the Craigmillar and Niddrie Community Festival, which saw the plot being used for music and theatre performances and a craft market.

"During this day the most interesting thing was watching how local residents accessed the site, coming through both the formal entrance under the beacon but also filtering in via the soft boundary to back lanes and their private back gardens," said Dolan.

Another project recently completed by New Practice is the renovation of Kinning Park Complex, a former school building in Glasgow that was saved from demolition.

The photography is by Will Scott.

Project credits:

Architect: New Practice
Landscape architect: Liz Thomas
Construction contractor: Bridgewater building solutions
Quantity surveyor: Currie & Brown
Structural engineer: Will Rudd
Building services engineer: Max Fordham