The Kelpies Design Competition, Winner, Falkirk Architecture Contest, Scotland, UK, Architects

The Kelpies Design Competition

Falkirk Design Contest by RIAS – world’s largest pair of equine sculptures

post updated 27 Mar 2020

27 Nov 2013

Kelpies construction work completed

The Kelpies Design Competition:

The world’s largest pair of equine sculptures have been unveiled in Scotland at an official topping out ceremony.

The Kelpies are one of the UK’s tallest pieces of public art, towering 30 metres above the Forth and Clyde canal near Falkirk.

Kelpie Sculptures
image courtesy of The Helix

The Kelpies at The Helix – our current page on these massive horse head installations

The Kelpies – Andy Scott’s Equine Sculptures near Falkirk, Scotland Film on YouTube

23 Mar 2012

‘The Kelpies’ Design Competition Winner

‘The Kelpies’ Internal Space Design Competition Winner

The Kelpies, Scotland – winning design by Nicoll Russell Studios:
The Kelpies Design Competition horse head
image © Nicoll Russell Studios


A Dundee-based architects’ practice has beaten global competition to secure a £1million contract to deliver a unique visitor experience, which will form part of one of the most exciting community projects in the UK.

Nicoll Russell Studios, whose head office is in Broughty Ferry, has been selected to deliver the prestigious contract following a design competition and tender process managed by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) seeking ambitious designs for a functional but visionary visitor centre as part of the £41 million Helix Project near Falkirk.

The Scottish architecture practice will also deliver their designs for an internal public space located within a 30m high Kelpie head – a Scottish mythical water horse – created by world-renowned sculptor, Andy Scott, in a move that will establish a dramatic, multi-sensory experience anticipated to generate significant levels of repeat visits.

The Kelpies Falkirk Scotland
image © Nicoll Russell Studios

The Helix Project is a transformational programme of works set to turn a 300-hectare area of under-used land between Falkirk and Grangemouth into a thriving new green space, comprising:

– central park and lagoon
– cycle network and foot paths
– woodland areas
– canal hub and extension connecting Grangemouth with the Firth of Forth network
– series of public artworks
– the Kelpies – two 30m high structures in the shape of two horses heads created by the internationally renowned Andy Scott

Nicoll Russell Studios’ designs were selected by a panel of four judges for their use of light, space and strength of visual elements as well as the connection between the two separate structures, which work seamlessly together to create a distinctive experience.

The Kelpies Design Competition Falkirk Contest
image © Nicoll Russell Studios

Brian Moore, director of RIAS Consultancy said; “The calibre and level of response to the competition was overwhelming and myself and the other judges had a tough time trying to shortlist five let alone decide on a winner.

“Ultimately, we were looking for a practice whose designs best met the objectives of the wider project and which would deliver an architecturally outstanding but realistic proposal within the given budget.”

Andy Baxter, a partner at Nicoll Russell Studios, said: “Winning this design competition against an international field is a superb accolade and we are delighted with the outcome. It reinforces the profile of our practice, continuing a string of success across the UK and we are looking forward to seeing the designs move from the drawing board into reality.”

Sculptor Andy Scott commented on the chosen designs. He said: “It was a tough decision but for me, I could see how the internal space and visitor centre would work together. These are exciting times and I am delighted by both the prospect of seeing the designs come to life and to the contract being awarded to a Scottish company with an international reputation for excellence.”

The Kelpies, Scotland – winning design by Nicoll Russell Studios – only thumbnail images:
The Kelpies Design Falkirk The Kelpies Design The Kelpies Design
images © Nicoll Russell Studios

Mike King, programme director for the Helix Project, welcomed the outcome of the competition. He said: “This is a great result and demonstrates the quality and strength of architecture and design in Scotland.

“Nicoll Russell Studios’ designs are dynamic and engaging and showed a clear understanding of the requirements of the brief, set against the backdrop of the wider project objectives. The Helix is amongst the most exciting transformation programmes under way in the UK right now and one of our key aims is to create a unique multi-visitor experience that will firmly establish the project as a ‘must see’ destination on the national and international tourism map.”

The Helix Project is being delivered by the Helix Trust in partnership with Falkirk Council, British Waterways Scotland and Central Scotland Forest Trust and has been part funded by a £25million lottery grant awarded by the Big Lottery Fund.

This project aims to establish a multi-functional outdoor space (a Living Landmark) for the local and wider Scottish community that will encourage pursuits such as walking, running, cycling and sailing and the creation of a key international visitor destination, which will significantly boost the local economy.

The Kelpies Design Competition winner, information from RIAS

The Kelpies at The Helix, Falkirk, central Scotland


9 Nov 2011

‘The Kelpies’ Design Competition

Unique Architectural Challenge Launched

‘The Kelpies’ Internal Space Design Competition

The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland has been commissioned by the Helix project in Falkirk to manage an important competition to select an architect-led, multi-disciplinary team. The competition is for the design of the internal space within a giant sculpture of a horse’s head. The structure will be set within one of two horses head sculptures, ‘The Kelpies’, by world renowned sculptor, Andy Scott. The competition also seeks the design of a complementary visitor hub on the Helix site where the Kelpies will be located. The Helix is a £43 million project which is transforming land between Falkirk and Grangemouth into a vibrant new parkland and visitor attraction set to open in 2013. The project has been awarded £25 million by the Big Lottery Fund’s Living Landmarks programme.

The Kelpies, Scotland:
The Kelpies
picture : Graeme Gilmour

The Kelpies Design Competition, commissioned on behalf of the Helix by Falkirk Council, is in two stages, the first being an open stage, inviting architects to submit a 400 word statement setting out their reasons for their team being shortlisted. In the second stage five shortlisted bidders will be invited to submit two A1 boards and to attend an interview with the judging panel. The panel will consist of:

– Andy Scott, Sculptor
– David Dunbar, Immediate Past President of the RIAS
– Steve Dunlop, Director, Scotland, British Waterways
– Robert McMaster, Head of Roads and Design, Falkirk Council

The closing date for the initial submission of 400 word statements is 5 December 2011.

Key developments in phase one – opening summer 2013 – include a central park with its own enclosed lagoon and outdoor events space. There will also be a new canal link featuring the Kelpies® – two towering sculptures in the shape of horse’s heads.

The Kelpies Design Competition, information from RIAS

Location: Falkirk, central Scotland

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