Edinburgh Local

Re-imagining Nicolson Square

Over the last few months, University students and staff have been working together to solve a locally-based challenge: how to tackle anti-social behaviour in public spaces, whilst also promoting social inclusion.

Photograph of front of grey 4-storey building

The public space selected was Nicolson Square, in Edinburgh’s Newington. Students and staff were briefed by local groups, including councillors, Council staff and community police on challenges they face in the Square. Students and staff then interviewed users of the Square and local business owners, in the hope of supporting work already been undertaken by the City of Edinburgh Council and charity Streetwork.

When interviewed, business owners and users of the Square had clear ideas about how the space could be improved.

Hunter Square

The challenge followed on from a similar initiative on Hunter Square that took place last year, the result of which were designs that are now being considered by the City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh World Heritage.


I got involved with the project because I was interested in sustainably redesigning the square, as well as the opportunity to get involved with a project that was completely different to my degree programme. The experience was brilliant, I particularly enjoyed interviewing users of the square and the opportunity to get involved with the community.

Cara Lynch, Theoretical Physics student and project participant


Both the Nicolson Square and Hunter Square challenges bring together community partners, students and academic staff, and students who are learning by undertaking research out in the local community. This learning through real-world experience, and integration of research, learning and teaching and community engagement, is key to flagship projects being implemented as a result of the University’s Community Engagement Strategy. While students benefit from this experience, the aim is that outcomes from the project will lead to real, positive changes in public spaces.


Students and staff produced design recommendations which have the potential to improve how these spaces are used, encouraging a wider range of people to use the space. In October, members of the public were invited to a display of the proposals. The next steps are to engage community partners to implement some of the suggestions.


We don’t know yet what conversations like these might result in. The plan is to continue running the project in the hope that it will improve the University institutional approach to community engagement.

Find out more

Read about the Hunter Square Project: Re-imagining Hunter Square

To find out how you can get involved in the project, or for more information, contact Sarah Anderson: Sarah.Anderson@ed.ac.uk