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Union Terrace Gardens debate commences

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October 19 2011

Union Terrace Gardens debate commences
As Aberdeen’s City Garden exhibition opens its doors to a curious public a furious debate has erupted in the press as to the merits (or otherwise) of the ambitious plans.

In The Scotsman Urban Realm editor John Glenday spoke of the “Green challenge of Red Square proportions” facing the design teams, writing: “‘You can’t see the wood for the trees’ is a phrase readily applied to Aberdeen’s resident tycoon, Sir Ian Wood, who has put Aberdeen City Council over an (oil) barrel in his dogged pursuit of his personal vision for a new city garden.”

Of principle concern is that this has come at the expense of at the expense of Brisac Gonzales Architects Peacock Visual Arts Centre.

 “Perhaps we should be looking again at Gonzalez’s seventh offering. Why isn’t that scheme on the table to make for a truly democratic competition?

“Extrapolating the existing pedestrian fabric to lure in passing pedestrians works with the axial nature of Union Street rather than against it”, is fine in principle, Glenday noted. But: “Fundamentally this should be an exercise in place making, not space making and none of the schemes presented convincingly make this case.

“Aberdeen is a city of organic nooks and crannies, not of ‘Grands Projets’.”

Over at The Herald Glenday noted that these were six “great solutions to a problem which doesn’t exist”, stating: “The Gardens in their present form already provide a green oasis in the Silver City, suggesting that Wood might be leading the city up the garden path with his own scheme.

“Nonetheless if the premise of the competition is accepted then there are some highlights to be found here, notably the multi-tiered cobweb of granite pathways evident in scheme one.”

Whether this scheme is realisable in its imagined form (or any other scheme for that matter) remains moot.
A delicate cobweb of granite pathways is employed by the mystery team 1 to break down the cavernous volume of gardens
A delicate cobweb of granite pathways is employed by the mystery team 1 to break down the cavernous volume of gardens
Design four offers an idyllic undulating meadow, which gently spans the site gradient
Design four offers an idyllic undulating meadow, which gently spans the site gradient

Team five opt for a technically impressive environmental solution which sees natural heating and ventilation, making for a green solution in every sense of the word.
Team five opt for a technically impressive environmental solution which sees natural heating and ventilation, making for a green solution in every sense of the word.
Team three have opted for a subterranean sunken street
Team three have opted for a subterranean sunken street

Team two’s submission formalises natural terracing into a sunken amphitheatre
Team two’s submission formalises natural terracing into a sunken amphitheatre
The Herald
The Herald

The Scotsman
The Scotsman

12 Comments

Jaco Justice
#1 Posted by Jaco Justice on 19 Oct 2011 at 16:13 PM
Great to see the PVA/Gonzalez plan still being talked about. Not just because it was an absolute disgrace that it was bulldozed from the public's view by Wood/Acsef (and not forgetting their vast, publicly funded array of media spin doctors) but also because some of these 6 designs actually show that the PVA plan could have been built and the rail/road covering and concourse adapted and completed as a second stage! But here we are looking at slugs, monoliths and Jetson-esque landscapes that won't be able to be built for anywhere near the estimated £140million (while the PVA-led project was fully funded at £13million) and you ask is it any wonder ACC is broke??!
Alex Kay
#2 Posted by Alex Kay on 20 Oct 2011 at 11:39 AM
Whilst some of the plans look impressive on paper, there can hardly be a better or more cost-effective option than to better manage and maintain the current, very beautiful garden that we already have. Better guardianship, with ongoing investment in gardening and organising of art and music events is all that is required to provide Aberdeen with its strong, historic green heart! Why bankrupt the city for a lesser option?
Bosie
#3 Posted by Bosie on 20 Oct 2011 at 13:54 PM
Alex, is this the totally underused, delapidated, dual carriageway, crumbling junkie haven you refer to as "very beautiful garden we already have"?

You see what you want to see min.

Aberdeen City Centre needs a revamp and it needs to start right in the Heart, by finishing the "accidental" park properly, triggering 4 other city centre regeneration schemes.

Dundeh has left Aberdene in its wake with its riverside regeneration project - which is embarrassing. Never again will teh city get such a good opportunity to get £50m handed to them for such a use.
John
#4 Posted by John on 20 Oct 2011 at 15:58 PM
Spinning the myths there Bosie arent we.
FOI documents from Grampian Police have proven the junkie story to be lies.
UTG is in need of some love and care, but this is only because it has been negelcted.

The PVA/Gonzalez plan would have given this care to the gardens. And all at an affordable cost. Hell, they had planning permission and the vast majority of the costs secured before Wood started throwing his weight about.
Key Stakeholder
#5 Posted by Key Stakeholder on 20 Oct 2011 at 16:02 PM
All very perplexing, these "great solutions to a problem which doesn't exist". But, of course, the great big open goal is the site of the now empty and soon to be derelict St Nicholas House, former Aberdeen City Council HQ building, which the council say they cannot now afford to demolish - yet they plan this huge Grand Project on an existing open space. How odd. Notwithstanding the fact that the St. Nicholas House building could become a candidate for Urban Realm's Rubble Club, it is regarded as a much-loathed rotten tooth in Aberdeen; an eyesore in the heart of the town. Were the moneymen to have proposed this City Garden on that site, they would have been pushing at an open door and been assured of the wholehearted support of the vast majority of Aberdonians. They would have reaped the benefit of citizens' goodwill for years to come. How could they miss this obvious wide open goal? What's wrong with them? I thought they were supposed to be clever. Perhaps, as is a common feeling in Aberdeen, there is a bit of a shell-game going on here, and the City Gardens Project is window dressing on something else. The superficial quality of the competition submissions (one of which is largely clip-art) bears this out.
Aberdonian M
#6 Posted by Aberdonian M on 20 Oct 2011 at 18:34 PM
The argument has been made that the multi-level conference centre under a civic space could never have been made at St Nicholas House. Ignoring two important facts. 1. It's already a multi-level site. 2. A network of underground tunnels already exists in the area. The Brisac design would have been completed by now, the gardens rejuvenated, and we could be designing a space everyone seems to want. We could even have brought in the money-men's conference centre to a subterranean site at St Nicholas House, or replace the Denburn car park with it. These are obvious solutions, which bring exactly the same 'claimed' benefits, with the added gain of retaining a revitalised park. Why won't acsef or anyone involved even discuss it? What are they afraid of?
Bill
#7 Posted by Bill on 20 Oct 2011 at 23:13 PM
The Brisac Gonzales scheme had it's merits, namely the fact accommodation was discreetly sculpted into the gardens (similar to one of the options actually) but it was a meek intervention, a temporary solution-and not an urban connection. People are put off by the poor access and deep lying topography of the park and it isn't used as a route from south to north because of this.

By the way John, I have lived in the city for 30 years and I've seen all sorts of shady activity in those arches so I don't care what some Grampian police report says. Believe what suits your argument and ignore reality eh? Tube.
alan dunlop
#8 Posted by alan dunlop on 21 Oct 2011 at 09:25 AM
Scott Sutherland MArch Student's comments:
http://news.stv.tv/scotland/north/275399-union-terrace-gardens-display-attracts-large-numbers/
Bill
#9 Posted by Bill on 21 Oct 2011 at 10:59 AM
She added: "I think they grasp the whole idea of connectivity from Belmont Street and Union Street. Especially on Union Street I think there’s a problem with that."

Precisely what I am saying - Brisac Gonzalez design was not a city intervention, it was a unit stuck in the side of a hill.

One of the schemes achieves connectivity in all directions very well, creating an interchange for the city centre's pedestrians and cyclists.
mr dibble
#10 Posted by mr dibble on 24 Oct 2011 at 21:13 PM
it's rather hilarious that the two "pro" csp people state "Believe what suits your argument"... rather ironic, much like them citing "the silent majority" supporting these crack pot schemes. PS, £50 million is more like £30odd + tax aid... so, Sir Ian is actually making the tax man make up his donation to £50. Ironic, seeing as he's been offshoring his tax liabilities. http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/2198187
John B
#11 Posted by John B on 28 Oct 2011 at 11:20 AM
Bill,

I've lived in Aberdeen 48 years; so that trumps you. Make us bankcrupt for pie in the sky scheme , the dream solely of "money men". ACC won't and can't raise the money through the business tax they invisioned. If Sir Wood would only do what he said and listen to the people then we wouldn't be having this polite debate (tubes- you- excepted)
Barry
#12 Posted by Barry on 28 Oct 2011 at 21:41 PM
I like the gardens as they are. However, I would like to see the road covered over and perhaps the winter garden from design 2 placed there. That would cut a lot of cost and give Aberdeen a nice art centre all year round.

The gardens as they stand are very beautiful -- the ornate Victorian railing etc should be preserved.

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