ONE of the country's leading architects last night unveiled the first few tantalising details of his latest project - an open-air ice rink for Edinburgh city centre.

It is part of a promenade space for the Grassmarket modelled on the Plaza Nueva square in Granada, Spain.

As the area is already popular in summer, Malcolm Fraser, whose Dance Base building at the Grassmarket won a Royal Institute of British Architects' Stirling Prize, plans to close down the parking areas to cars and pedestrianise the entire north side.

Landscape gardening will be incorporated with artworks and an open-air dance studio. The dance studio, next to the Dance Base building, will be converted into the ice rink during winter months.

Mr Fraser, also responsible for the award-winning Scottish Poetry Library in the Old Town, said traders' and residents' views would be key to the plans.

While the details are being kept under wraps at this stage, Mr Fraser revealed he planned to incorporate Henry Raeburn's famous image of the Rev Robert Walker skating on Duddingston Loch, from the National Gallery.

The project has already won a (pounds) 30,000 Creative Scotland award from the Scottish Arts Council and it is hoped further backing from Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothians will be announced soon.

Mr Fraser was speaking about the project at a lecture hosted by the National Museums of Scotland at the Royal Museum called An Edinburgh Republic: Some Urban Patterns/Little Utopias for the City.

He said: ''We plan to take the cars and park them on King's Stables Road and give the space back to the promenade culture which seems to be starting to work now in

Edinburgh rather than have that driven by bar chairs and tables and transportation


''What we are suggesting for the Grassmarket is that the space be remade by art, that we use art to help imagine our city.''

Mr Fraser went on: ''So we have got an outdoor dance venue for Dance Base there and in winter we freeze it and your folks can go curling and the children can go skating, rather than the sort of temporary plywood fit of the wild west camp that springs up in Princes Street Gardens.

''I asked the question, can we not do things like that within our urban space?

''We are working with other artists in other spaces within the Grassmarket and using art to think about the city and its history and its culture and its future and how we can use the space in different ways.

''The money is to make a rather wonderful but also practical proposal which we would then look to try and secure with various agencies funding for the space.

''We will then present the proposals to all the various interest groups.

''We also need to look at how the whole place works during the Festival and how we would make sure that skateboarders don't take over and all these sorts of things, so lots to work out still.''

''The Grassmarket is a peerless urban stage, from which the story of the city has unfolded in a particularly vital way.

''This has always been the agricultural end of town, buzzing with horse fairs, hangings and riots.

He added: ''It's still a bit 'agricultural', mixing tourists, students, residents, stag-nighters and jakeys.''

Mr Fraser also gave his support to the now shelved plan for an airport in central Scotland, saying a 10-minute bullet train to both Glasgow and Edinburgh would allow closer mutual development between both cities.