West Lothian Civic Centre, Scotland, News, Architect, Building Photos, Council, Police, Courts

West Lothian Civic Centre

New Building in Central Scotland design by BDP Architects

23 Apr 2010

West Lothian Civic Centre Design

Design: BDP Architects

West Lothian Civic Centre News

The design brief for the new West Lothian Civic Centre required provision of a single building providing accommodation for three distinct partner organisations, serving the communities within West Lothian.

The partners, West Lothian Council, Lothian and Borders Police, and The Scottish Courts Service were joint clients for the project, and share the Civic Centre with a range of subsidiary organisations including the Procurator Fiscal, SRCA and the Registrar.

West Lothian Civic Centre Building
photo © Paul Zanre

These organisations previously occupied a range of buildings, dispersed across Livingston, Linlithgow and elsewhere in West Lothian. The location of these buildings was not determined in response to a need for dispersal of services, but was the result of legacy estate, dating from the 19th through to the mid 20th century, when Livingston New Town became the administrative centre for the region.

The primary objective of co-locating onto a single site, and a unified building, was to better serve the people of West Lothian by providing a one-stop-shop for a range of linked public-sector services, facilitated by the provision of joined-up services between the partners, whilst achieving operational and cost efficiencies.

West Lothian Civic Centre
photo © Paul Zanre

For the community, principle benefits of the new Civic Centre include:

– Joined-up council services, which can be accessed in a single visit, due to the co-location of the majority of customer-facing central council services in one building.
– Co-location of each partner organisation in one place, avoiding the need to travel to a variety of locations, and make multiple appointments, to use services commonly shared between the Council, the Police, the Courts, the Fiscal, and the SRCA.
– A new internal Civic Space, forming a dignified civic heart for the community and the town of Livingston, and providing a large scale function space suitable for a range of civic and community based events.
– A clearly visible Council Chamber, symbolically suspended within the Civic Space, where an accessible public gallery provides an attractive environment in which the public can witness sessions of Council and its committees in action.
– A secure, efficient and open justice centre, with modern accessible courts, and custody accommodation that conforms to current standards.
– A Civic Centre which is attractive and welcoming, with modern, bright and spacious meeting rooms, offices and public spaces for visitors and staff alike.
– A newly landscaped park, river walk and Civic Square, and a new footbridge linking the community of Howden directly to the retail centre of Livingston.
– Improved public transport links to the site of the new centre and adjacent retail centre, as an outcome of the green travel plan for the project.

Beyond these benefits, efficiencies achieved include:
– Value gains achieved from the disposal of the outdated existing buildings and dispersed sites.
– Reduction in life cycle costs and carbon emissions.
– An efficient design with flexible floor space and shared facilities, leading to a reduction in overall gross floor area compared to the previous estate, and a reduction in overall management costs.
– Reduction in costs associated with rates, cleaning, energy consumption, travel times, etc as the number of individual buildings and disparate locations has been rationalised.

West Lothian Civic Centre West Lothian Civic Centre West Lothian Civic Centre
photos © David Barbour/BDP


The new Civic centre aspires to be a centre of excellence, within the sphere of community service, and to provide a flexible facility that is designed to accommodate planned and future initiatives whilst maintaining a high quality of community focused service provision.

The Centre has to meet the operational requirements of each partner whilst delivering their joint aspiration that it appear as a unified, single Civic Centre, and not a series of linked separate buildings.

The River Almond forms a natural boundary to the south, east and west of the site and an established pedestrian footpath cuts the site north-south linking the town centre to Howden, the Hospital, the Theatre and Howden Park. These site features, together with topography and aspect, were among the key generators for the building form.

Occupying the northern part of the site, the Centre avoids low-lying areas prone to periodic flooding from the River Almond. The north-south desire line anchors the western edge of the Civic Centre and generates the principal pedestrian and vehicle approach for visitors.

A new, partially covered, stone-paved Civic Square is linked to a large and lofty Civic Space forming the main public entrance. Each of the principle partners has accommodation fronting this Civic Space, with a single reception point forming a onestop- shop for all visitors to the Centre.

The building form signals the main functions within by clearly expressing the council chamber, the criminal courts, the large glazed volume of the civic space and the linear office ‘bars’ as distinct architectural forms. This helps to break-down the scale of this large and complex building into a series of legible parts, each with a specific identity.

A three storey linear atrium links shallow-plan fingers of office space, and is top-lit by clerestorey glazing. This formal expression is enhanced by rooftop glazed ‘lanterns’, arranged along the linear atrium, that form chimneys providing natural stack ventilation and smoke extract for the offices, and have the added benefit of providing a visual marker for the Centre above the tree canopy, on approach from the Almondvale retail centre across the river to the south.

The design evolved through regular workshops with each of the principle partners, other occupiers, and stakeholders, and was formally presented at key stages to the Council’s Elected Members for review, comment and critique. During the design phase of the project, the Council set-up and publicised a project-specific Website to give the public access to real-time information about the progress of the project and to provide a forum for feedback. Employees of the organisations involved were also extensively consulted, and intranet sites set-up to provide information on progress and project details.

The new Civic Centre provides an exemplary model for other public-sector organisations in the delivery of joined-up public services provided on a single site. The building is open and welcoming, fully accessible, sustainable, flexible bright and attractive, and provides what was previously missing from Livingston – a Civic heart for the communities which together make up West Lothian.

West Lothian Civic Centre Building images / information from BDP, Architects

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Location: West Lothian Civic Centre, Scotland

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