Project Details


Bristo Square, McEwan Hall


Edinburgh, Scotland


January 2020

About The Project

Situated on the southerly edge of Edinburgh’s old town, Bristo Square sits on part of the estate of the University of Edinburgh.

Bristo square was officially opened in 1983 and amongst many other things, has become an epicentre for the Edinburgh street skating seen. Surrounded by the famous McEwan Hall, Reid Concert Hall and the Teviot Building, Bristo Square is a well-established communal setting for all Edinburgh society has to offer.

A £33m redevelopment project was undertaken in 2015 which included the major refurbishment and expansion of McEwan Hall. Bristo Square was also included in this, with Landscape Architects Ironside Farrar Ltd designing it to be more accessible and safer with external works and landscaping to the front.  

Bristo Square is now a customary location for sections of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, following the unveiling of a new outdoor festival arena in 2017. Running 68m across the square, artist Susan Collis was commissioned to create a meandering sculpture of bronze drips as part of the design.

What we did

Bristo Square was designed to give light, open space, with tiered seating steps around the central events area as well as providing improved accessibility and the creation of more social spaces. Helping to soften the cityscape ten semi-mature trees, set in hard landscaping, surround the paved pedestrian area. These also provide much needed shaded areas during the summer months.

Widely used across the country in urban tree planting, Ironside Farrar specified Green-tech’s Geo-Cellular Raft System in order to protect the tree pit soil from compaction. Working together to create a healthy growing space for trees in areas subject to vehicle loadings and trafficking – the Geo-Cellular Raft System combines nutrient-rich Geo-Cellular Raft System soil and exceptionally strong geocellular units. Individual Geo-Cellular Raft System units are locked together to form a raft system within the tree pit. This enable the spread of load from any vehicle movements around the tree’s rooting area, eliminating soil compaction within the pit and creating the growing environment required for the trees to establish and mature.

Green-tech supplied over 200 tonnes of Green-tree Geo-Cellular Raft System topsoil and subsoil in conjunction with Landscaping and Forestry Contractors M W Groundworks. Both of these manufactured soils meet British Standards and are regularly tested to ensure quality of composition and consistency across deliveries.

The gtSleeper and Kerbstone tree anchoring systems, gt RootBarrier and Mona Relief tree irrigation pipes were also supplied by Green-tech.

A well tried and tested system that has been incorporated into many rail, utilities and urban projects throughout the UK has been implemented. Utilising heavy objects such as sleepers and kerbstones to weigh down the tree and act as anchor points is the gtSleeper and Kerbstone Anchoring system. Well compacted subsoil is then placed over the sleepers and the kerbstones to provide added weight and security for the tree.

Helping the trees to establish quickly and remain healthy, especially in the first five years of life, the gtRootBarrier was supplied. This is also used to control and protect the tree roots, whilst also protecting surrounding structures from the root system.

In order to deliver water straight to the tree roots at a consistent level, the Green-tech Mona Relief irrigation system was suppled. Installed with a perforated pipe that surrounds the tree’s root ball this ensures there is never a lack of water at the root ball, which can be detrimental to the lifespan and survival of the tree.

Green-techs Fortress tree grilles were installed into the surrounding paved surface, to give each tree pit a contemporary finish. Enabling paving to be laid almost up to the tree trunk, these heavy-duty urban grilles also protect the tree roots whilst allowing rainwater to percolate through. The Mona irrigation pipes are then finished off to match the Fortress grilles, with the aluminium Piazza filler cap.

“It is always good to work on a project that seamlessly links historic buildings to the client’s needs of today. The Geo-Cellular Raft System from Green-tech does the job perfectly, allowing more rooting volume for the tree; and we were very pleased how the Fortress grilles blended in with the surrounding paving.”

Ian Dooner – Ironside Farrar, Associate Project Manager