Edinburgh’s Grassmarket

Edinburgh, UK

Grassmarket is the largest open space in Edinburgh's historic Old Town and an important focal point. The redesign by Gillespies retains the characteristics that make historic Grassmarket unique while creating a contemporary place that enhances local life for both the public and the business community.

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Located in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town and steeped in history, the Grassmarket is an area with unique character. In recent years the mix of retail, pubs, restaurants and hotel activities had become more popular, which brought new and changing pressures on the public spaces. As part of a wider programme, the City of Edinburgh Council recognised that improvements were required to the public realm in the city centre to enhance its vitality and maintain Edinburgh’s competitiveness with other national and international cities.

Gillespies were commissioned to design a public realm for Grassmarket that worked in harmony with its history but also took into account contemporary uses and the problems and aspirations raised by the local community. Gillespies used simple design concepts and existing natural materials to redefine the space of this medieval market place.

The regenerated Grassmarket recovers many of its original qualities, previously lost over the years. Changing the balance between vehicles and pedestrians was key to improving Grassmarket’s appeal as a walkable neighbourhood and has seen local pubs and cafes embrace a continental-style cafe culture.

The design creates a pleasant, comfortable and convenient space that enhances the quality of life for local residents and businesses, and is an exemplar for future management of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site.