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Aberdeen city centre masterplan launched

March 10 2015

Aberdeen city centre masterplan launched
BDP have lifted the lid on their masterplan proposals for Aberdeen city centre, with the aim of eliciting public comments to shape the future evolution of the long-term vision, including the pedestrianisation of part of Union Street.

Delivered in partnership with Aberdeen City Council the consultation is aimed at reducing the disparity in wealth and quality of environment that is increasingly evident between the city and its fast growing suburbs – despite the oil bonanza.

Key components of the plan include transformation of the area around Queen’s Square to form a new ‘urban quarter’ and the creation of a new square in the Castlegate/Castlehill area.

Elsewhere improvements will be made to the area around the railway station whilst a new pedestrian bridge will be installed over the River Dee, together with an enhanced riverside promenade and new business quarter at North Dee.

Councillor Marie Boulton, chair of the City Centre Regeneration Working Group, said: “The proposals are challenging, but the opportunity to transform our city centre for the better and ensure Aberdeen remains a busy, flourishing, cosmopolitan city which continues to experience strong growth and attract international business interest as well as increased tourism levels, simply cannot be missed.

“Our vision is to deliver a new city centre which Aberdeen, a truly global city, needs and deserves."

In a statement campaign group Aberdeen Beautiful said: “We will not be drawn on any conclusions about the masterplan until we have had the opportunity to view the full proposal. We are however hopeful that the public, together with planners, can create the exceptional design Aberdeen deserves.

“We hold some concerns over the timetabling and lack of notice over the public consultation. We do not feel the length or notice period for the consultation is sufficient, nor is there enough weekend consultation provided. Aberdeen is proud of its offshore workforce, it is disappointing and somewhat disrespectful that some might miss out on the opportunity to be involved in the masterplan due to shift patterns.

“A longer or staggered consultation process would be much more appropriate.”

The consultation will launch this Saturday until 29 March at the International Market before being brought before councilors for approval this summer.
A new public square could be created at Castlegate/Castlehill;
A new public square could be created at Castlegate/Castlehill;
A section of Union Street would be pedestrianised and branded 'Heart of the City'
A section of Union Street would be pedestrianised and branded 'Heart of the City'

High-rise housing may be built within the Denburn Valley
High-rise housing may be built within the Denburn Valley
Improved pedestrian connections are envisaged
Improved pedestrian connections are envisaged

Queens Square would be transformed into a mixed-use urban quarter
Queens Square would be transformed into a mixed-use urban quarter


#1 Posted by Robert on 10 Mar 2015 at 16:07 PM
They've photoshopped the Poundshop out of the image of Union Street that was blatantly ripped from Google Streetview (copyright cleared by any chance???, might want to check Google's terms of service), presenting a rather sanitised view of a working high street.

Makes me wonder, whether the consultants even visited Aberdeen...
#2 Posted by Brian on 10 Mar 2015 at 16:11 PM
It looks like a really badly run down Duke st in Glasgow in 1980s.
#3 Posted by Jon on 10 Mar 2015 at 20:04 PM
This "vision" is overwhelming only in its banality and total absence of any ambition. I know these are only esquisse ideas but since when did the part-pedestrianisation of a street (there will still be buses running), some bland and univiting outdoor furniture in a northern climate and some frankly crude and embarrassing buildings constitute a bold vision for the redevelopment of a city centre? Then again this is Aberdeen.

To further emphasise this, we see that the behemoth BDP is the master planner, the same firm responsible for the much applauded and publicly endorsed Buchannan Galleries expansion . Sure we can find some steps for them to remove somwhere.

Alex Buchan
#4 Posted by Alex Buchan on 10 Mar 2015 at 20:44 PM
Unbelievably cynical effort from BDP after getting speakers in to give inspiring talks from Gothenburg, Manchester and Calgary and after extensive public consultation where they gave absolutely nothing away in terms of their intentions, which made the consultations meaningless for the public.

They seem to think they can get away with producing this pathetic effort, while changing a fat fee. After Marischal Square maybe they think anything goes in Aberdeen. I notice that it's eliciting cynical comments here, cynicism breeds cynicism it seems.

Is this lack of ambition really appropriate in the aftermath of the indyref, when public are engaged and energised and want to see Scotland moving forward.

I'm no architect so I hope others can maybe enlighten me, but in a city centre like Aberdeen, which, like Edinburgh, has retained much of its urban fabric and fine views, is it really acceptable to introduce totally unsympathetic residential tower blocks?

This master plan appears to show the folly of bringing in consultants who understand nothing of the traditions of Scottish architecture and planning. Manchester can afford to be visually chaotic because it's part of its dynamism. Aberdeen would be left only with the visual chaos and none of the dynamism.
Mary Hill
#5 Posted by Mary Hill on 10 Mar 2015 at 21:38 PM
Wow. This is really bad. Looks like its been given to the year out student to have a punt. Not good enough BDP.
#6 Posted by Jamie on 10 Mar 2015 at 21:38 PM
That cheeser on image 6 though
#7 Posted by Sandy on 10 Mar 2015 at 22:13 PM
Denburn looks horrendous - doesn't fit in at all
Housing section at Queens Square looks old fashioned and slummy
Union Terrace Gardens pic looks silly and totally pointless
Joyce C Farquhar
#8 Posted by Joyce C Farquhar on 10 Mar 2015 at 22:13 PM
I am really not impressed with any of the designs. We already have the Castlegate Square laid with cassies at great expense. Union Terrace appears to have lost the beautiful arches. Public accessible toilets? No where to be seen anywhere. Queens Square, more concrete and glass boxes. Union Street, same as it is now with a few planters. Not much to look forward to then, is there? Now what about the traffic? Where is that going to go? How about some pictures of the chaos caused in the surrounding streets? ACC stop using useless "designers" and wasting ratepayers money if that is what they envisage.
Year out student
#9 Posted by Year out student on 10 Mar 2015 at 22:24 PM
#5 I'm offended.
#10 Posted by louise on 10 Mar 2015 at 22:31 PM
There is no vision here. Bonny Castle gate picture with snow effect and the road and traffic removed. Union street similar- nice sunny day with big concrete blocks to sit on. Someone has gone to town on the denburn though- with some retro tower blocks lifted from somewhere draped in greenery (plastic?) Was Queen Square an after thought? Looks ready for demolition-very down market!- but the visitors look happy though, I expect they are enjoying the back view of Mariscal college with the large and impressive muse development behind it. Sorry- an appalling lack of vision.
#11 Posted by Robbe on 10 Mar 2015 at 23:26 PM
Atrocious effort, notable only by its complete lack of ambition and delusion that Aberdeen is some Mediterranean paradise where the sun always shines, greenery is always green and pavements aren't covered in chewing gum. Buses running along pedestrianised Union street makes sense given that they want to close off broad street, with no other supporting infrastructure upgrades announced for the city centre. Does mean though that the middle of the street won't be safe to mindlessly wander along or across, and you certainly couldn't let a child run free along it with buses running along it almost continuously.

Besides this we get our very own 'bridge to nowhere' across the denburn whilst retaining lovely views of the dual carriageway and railway line running through the heart of the city. We get some nice new apartment blocks that are as in-keeping with the surrounding Victorian era terraces and hospital as the current tower block and denburn car park are, no recognisable improved access to the train station, no improvements to the councils pet project - the 'Merchant Quarter'.

Send BDP away to think again please, and give us something not dragged out of the generic file of british City centre bland regeneration projects. And fire whichever architect was responsible for this less-than-mediocre effort.
Alex Buchan
#12 Posted by Alex Buchan on 10 Mar 2015 at 23:46 PM
#3 Your sentiments exactly and if this is only esquisse ideas then the question arises as to what the point was of the months of intermittent public participation on vague notions like connectivity etc.

These proposals are so poorly thought through that they could have been hatched in a day's workshop at the beginning of the process and formed the basis for a proper interaction with the public. Instead they are produced at the end and only two short weeks of display is being allowed.

This is not public participation, this is the deliberate avoidance of any discussion or controversy by Aberdeen City Council. No credence can therefore be given to this public participation exercise.

What is particularly calling is that they had Bjorn Siesjo, the chief planner of the River City regeneration project in Gothenburg over in Aberdeen last November to talk about the participative approach to design that they have pioneered in the River City project. How, in the present time with so much enthusiasm in Scotland for engagement and participation, can there be any justification for this mismatch between the public relations effort to give the impression of openness to new ideas and the reality of a council, beleaguered and paranoid about anyone questioning it's decisions.
#13 Posted by Sheena on 11 Mar 2015 at 00:18 AM
What to say - Firstly, this is probably going to cost the tax payers of Aberdeen a fortune.

The pedestrianised areas could be done by any company, especially a company with no vision. Cement blocks for seating, really? We are talking about the "heart of the city".

The Union Terrace Gardens are also a complete disaster. Just looks as though they are taking away more granite and not finishing anything off.

The Denburn area actually looks quite nice as long as the flats they put up are of good quality. However, I am not too fond of the multi-storey.

As mentioned previously, the work suggested in the aforementioned could be completed by any company and the amount it's going to cost to go with BDP will be ridiculous.
#14 Posted by Roddy on 11 Mar 2015 at 00:26 AM
BDP . Scotland's newest bête noire on the architectural scene.

I won't cast any stones at this one till there's more detail ...
Tony Clark
#15 Posted by Tony Clark on 11 Mar 2015 at 07:58 AM
This just looks abysmal, tired and boring, if they want to know what the people of Aberdeen wish their city looked like, it might be an idea to ask....the people of Aberdeen, and not the City council, who's only interest in Aberdeen is who can give them more cash, They should stop trying to compete with other cities in other countries, and focus on making Aberdeen look like the third city in Scotland!.
Kim Stewart
#16 Posted by Kim Stewart on 11 Mar 2015 at 08:17 AM
YES to pedestrainisation of Union Street that will hopefully encouraged better shops & restaurants to open. Pedestranisation would also make the air quality better for the public walking on Union Street. Public toilets facilities & seating hopefully will be included into this plan. Would also be a good idea to remove all beggars as pdestrainisation would encourage more. Providing more seating at Castlegate is the only spending required. The planned new builds are not required or sympathetic to the surrounding buildings in my opinion.
Tony Barrett
#17 Posted by Tony Barrett on 11 Mar 2015 at 09:38 AM
Aberdeen people will moan no matter what.
Step 1:We want change!
Step 2:Why are you changing it?! What clown made these plans?!
Step 3:Aberdeen council are shit because they haven't changed anything.

I would love them to come up with their own ideas instead of just saying everything is rubbish. I challenge people. COME UP WITH IDEAS NOW. Real professional planning and not just saying "I would put a nice building there" etc. Full architectural planning. And then everyone has to like it. 100% of Aberdeen has to like your idea. Go.
#18 Posted by FHM on 11 Mar 2015 at 10:06 AM
Without critiquing the scheme too much based on these vague yet amazingly beautiful and utterly unique visuals, one thing which should probably be clarified is the following statement:

"...creation of a new square in the Castlegate/Castlehill area."

There already is a square in the Castlegate / Castlehill area, it's called the Castlegate.

Should we be worried that the master-planners have not even looked at the existing site prior to creating these proposals? Probably not considering their sensitivity, careful detailing and massing. Oh, I just have had a great idea, why not invite HFM to come along and assist with the larger residential blocks? That way Aberdeen can become completely overrun by quality Architecture!
#19 Posted by Jon on 11 Mar 2015 at 10:58 AM
@#5 @#9 @#15

I have seen far superior work from even first year architecture students! Which brings me to the point of Tony Barrett #15 above.

Not 15 minutes away from Aberdeen city centre is one of Scotland’s School of architecture, and over the years students there have come up with a multitude of (albeit hypothetical) proposals for numerous sites across the city centre, from individual gap sites to full masterplans. The amount of schemes produced must number in the multiples of dozens, possibly even three figures, not to mention Masters dissertations and other written research.

I would be willing to bet the vast majority of these are of much higher quality than the lazy proposals presented above by our city council.

I know it is naïve to assume that every student proposal is economically, logistically or politically possible. However, and considering most of these students go on to become architects etc, a vast amount of research and effort go in to these student projects and there must be some genuinely feasible ideas generated. It is quite possible that far better ideas have already been thought of, although not implemented, and it is frustrating to know that these ideas are not at least considered and instead ACC commission BDP or their ilk to come up with half-baked and frankly embarrassing proposals that fall way below the standards of many student projects.

For the record I am not affiliated with the architecture school other than being an ex-student.
#20 Posted by Designer on 11 Mar 2015 at 12:10 PM
What is really funny is that the much slated HMF produced a scheme last year which was actually BETTER than this. It at least tried, with the covered areas of Union Street and better connectivity to the Station.
#21 Posted by Sven on 11 Mar 2015 at 12:36 PM
I do not know Aberdeen apart from passing through it to get to the airport or via the train so excuse my knowledge. I cannot see any problems in terms of landscaping and architecture with the first few images. The Denburn development is odd as Aberdeen is not a city of high rises and this looks out of place. I am offended by the 'improved pedestrian access' as no one wants to walk down such a bridge and walk down stairs/ramps and the outdoor auditorium is to what end? It would be better used as a landscaped park with seating than a never used seating area that will only attract drunks and skateboarders.
ex aiberdeen loon
#22 Posted by ex aiberdeen loon on 11 Mar 2015 at 13:01 PM
Aberdeen due to wealth and their living out in the sticks has adopted the US malls and high car ownership rates. if you pedestrianize they won't come. but if you do figure out a way to get them out their 4x4's please do let the US know!
#23 Posted by Leigh on 11 Mar 2015 at 13:02 PM
I agree with previous comments. Look at York in England & Glasgow- beautiful buildings, maybe old but in keeping with the area and other buildings. Keeping their heritage & lovely architecture & no glass boxes! It would be nice to have some pedestrianised area or space for cafes with outdoor seating say from Market Street to Bridge Street with no bus going up it. The bus/rail links need to be addressed as the services are not user friendly & drop off points non existant. All the Castlegate needs is a powerwash (as does most of the town) and outdoor seating/shelter - not stone blocks & concrete. Housing in Denburn valley - really why??? I'd love to see the students of architecture ideas, they probably use most of the city facilities & services.
M is for mungo
#24 Posted by M is for mungo on 11 Mar 2015 at 19:03 PM
Oh, if Aberdeen only had a cohesive Urban Realm Strategy that gave guidance on pedstrianised areas, connectivity of the city centre and solved the Union Terrace Garden issue, say from around 15 years ago. Hold on, heres one:
Elizabeth Walker
#25 Posted by Elizabeth Walker on 12 Mar 2015 at 06:32 AM
What we treasure in Scotland is the beauty, history and tradition. We do not want a Concrete box jungle. Look at what tourist Scotland sell. This is what people spend their precious holiday weeks looking for.
Please please please do not distroy what we have left. Build tastefully as Cambridge York Durham at Andrews Edinburgh etc. do. This is what Aberdeen wants and needs.
#26 Posted by neil on 12 Mar 2015 at 14:53 PM
similar to many other comments I am completely underwhelmed by this 'proposal'. The reference to architecture students doing better is wrong. Many primary school kids could have come up with what appears to be colouring in the blocks that they were allowed to by the City Fathers. BDP took this task on with at least one hand tied behind their back albeit this was greased with large amounts of cash so it was never going to be a true masterplan. Heaven help us if this is the 'vision' and like others have noted some of the 'artist' impressions were done by people who have never set foot in Aberdeen or they lifted from one of their other inspirational masterplans
Matthew Smith
#27 Posted by Matthew Smith on 12 Mar 2015 at 21:56 PM
It's a sad day when you're embarrassed to say the city you live in.
They should've pumped some of the money into regenerating this city years ago. All this city is good for is expensive cocktails, overpriced houses and charity shops.
The council should be ashamed of itself!
#28 Posted by Resident on 13 Mar 2015 at 07:54 AM
No.17 - I completely agree. It's easy for people to sit here and criticise as if they know the answers to all of Aberdeen's problems. Lets hear some of them then.....
Gordon Perrett Anderson
#29 Posted by Gordon Perrett Anderson on 16 Jul 2015 at 12:02 PM
My understanding is that Union Street between Market and Bridge Streets is a Viaduct and as such should be protected from this or any other unsympathetic bastardisation, In my view ACC have already altered it from its original vision by narrowing the carriageway from the bridge down destroying the line and fascinating story the original visionaries went to great pains to create.
Don Diamante
#30 Posted by Don Diamante on 3 May 2022 at 20:31 PM
Hello 2015, this is 2022 calling.
I've just popped back in time to let you know that we are still thinking about your plans, but one note of progress is that we have upgraded Union Terrace Gardens (well, almost). Unfortunately not everyone is happy about that, as predicted above by Tony Barrett .
I'll pop back in another 7 years to give you a procrastination update.

p.s. Tony Barrett retired to Barbados in 2016 after guessing the winning Euromillions numbers 6 weeks on the trot.

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