Prestonpans Civic Square
Chair’s Award for Architecture
rankinfraser landscape architecture
Morham and Brotchie
East Lothian Council
Prestonpans Civic Square is the principal public space in the East Lothian coastal town. The regeneration of the square was driven by Prestonpans Community Council in partnership with East Lothian Council and the Preston Seton Gosford Area Partnership. The square had become tired, was a magnet for anti-social behaviour and did not provide an appropriate setting for the Category B Listed war memorial designed in 1922 by William Birnie Rhind (RSA). The design brief required: removal of an elevated viewing platform on the west side of the square that was inaccessible to many and was no longer considered fit for purpose; to continue to protect and conserve the war memorial; to make available additional space within the square (not on the existing memorial) for missing or new names; to create a flexible public realm for community events and gatherings including Remembrance Day; to introduce views to the Firth of Forth from the High Street and square; to encourage users of the John Muir Way to stop in Prestonpans; to provide interpretation of the built, natural and cultural assets of the town. The design sought to recognise the historic significance of the memorial and its current setting within a walled enclosure designed in the 1950s. Removal of the viewing platform returned the memorial to the centre of the space, becoming the main focus once again. A series of subtle design approaches were introduced to reinforce this condition: improving the memorial setting by incorporating the expansive views of the Firth of Forth and Fife beyond via a Juliet Balcony and picture window cut into the rear wall that make these views accessible to all, and part of the civic square composition for the first time; providing space for additional names to the memorial hand carved on a new tablet aligned with the picture window slot; a new natural stone surface articulated through unit size and pattern to frame the memorial space and link to the balcony via an in ground interpretative route restoration and repair of the boundary wall; removal and remediation of in-ground asbestos; introduction of a native Scots Pine as a counter point to the memorial; introduction of vertical slots to the east and west walls that open up views to the memorial from the John Muir Way that passes to the north. The Civic Square was re-opened in December 2022, 100 years after the memorials unveiling.