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MacEwen 2024 shortlist: The Gathering Place, Inverness

‘A place to pause and reflect on the joy of human interaction within the amphitheatre of the river’

The Gathering Place, Inverness by KHBT.
The Gathering Place, Inverness by KHBT. Credit: Robert Ormerod

The Gathering Place, Inverness
KHBT in collaboration with Sans façon for the Highland Council
Contract cost: £228,000
GIA: NA (external circa 150m2)

This public space intervention on the River Ness takes the form of an interrupted circle, with a thin ribbon of Clashach stone extending into a minimalist pier – a platform to observe the theatricality of the river and countryside.

On one bank, the narrow pathway projects into the river, an interrupted section of the circle’s circumference. On the opposite bank, a curved bench continues the circle’s broken perimeter, allowing passers-by to enjoy views upstream in the direction of Loch Ness and back towards Inverness Castle.

The judges praised the elegance of this project and its success in making a statement while deferring to the drama of its natural surroundings (‘It wouldn’t be out of place in Norway,’ noted judge Alex Scott Whitby). They were also impressed that a seemingly simple infrastructural intervention could tread so lightly. ‘It is unique and offering something original,’ observed judge Kathy MacEwen.

Clashach stone originates in nearby Moray, and local labour also reduced the environmental impact of the project while fostering community bonds. The site is a much-loved part of the city and its users are diverse; any intervention must cater to these requirements. ‘Meticulous planning and collaboration with environmental and flood risk management experts ensured that there would be little to no impact on wildlife, trees and the river’s natural habitat,’ the architect explains. ‘The Gathering Place as a special place to connect and to contemplate. The piece is truly intergenerational, a place to pause and reflect on the joy of human interaction within the amphitheatre of the river,’ said client David Haas of The Highland Council.

  • The Gathering Place, Inverness by KHBT.
    The Gathering Place, Inverness by KHBT. Credit: Robert Ormerod
  • The Gathering Place, Inverness by KHBT.
    The Gathering Place, Inverness by KHBT. Credit: Robert Ormerod
  • The Gathering Place, Inverness by KHBT.
    The Gathering Place, Inverness by KHBT. Credit: Robert Ormerod
  • The Gathering Place, Inverness by KHBT.
    The Gathering Place, Inverness by KHBT. Credit: Robert Ormerod
  • Plan drawing of The Gathering Place, Inverness, designed by KHBT.
    Plan drawing of The Gathering Place, Inverness, designed by KHBT.
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‘It is brave in its proposition,’ commented judge Je Ahn. ‘It offers people a way to experience the river… it is beautifully done.’

Inclusivity has been a huge focus of the project, ensuring the appropriate accessibility for all users. The scheme is also a success with its client, who explained: ‘The Gathering Place is inspired by the people of the city connecting to form a single view which instilled the value of the river to its people… the wonder of the River Ness, with the mystique of the river’s history, provides a world class feature connecting people and place.’

See more on MacEwen shortlisted projects and architecture for the common good 

 

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