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£20m Union Terrace Gardens plan goes out to consultation

December 2 2016

£20m Union Terrace Gardens plan goes out to consultation
Aberdeen City Council have launched a public engagement exercise for their latest plans for Union Terrace Gardens, the latest evolution in a long line of proposals for the city centre park.

Prepared by landscape design specialists LDA the £20m plan includes an elevated walkway plugging into Union Street to improve disabled access and transformation of the central lawn into a flexible events space.

Further interventions include a café and entrance plaza opposite His Majesty’s Theatre and reinstatement of a staircase rising to Union Street. Separate lift access will also be installed to whisk people to the upper terrace.

Aberdeen City Council leader, Councillor Jenny Laing, commented: “These proposals respect the unique character of the Gardens while making the space more usable for all. I would urge all residents to share their views so the LDA can refine the design and ensure we get the best result for everyone.”

LDA have sought to retain as many trees as possible following their interventions, which will include a ‘rich’ new planting scheme.

Local residents have until 9 December to offer their feedback on the proposals.
Heritage features such as granite steps, monuments and balustrades will be restored
Heritage features such as granite steps, monuments and balustrades will be restored
Improved lighting has been specifiedto  improve safety and security
Improved lighting has been specifiedto improve safety and security


Carole Baxter
#1 Posted by Carole Baxter on 2 Dec 2016 at 13:57 PM
So disappointing....this is a tart up exercise when the city is crying out for something significant at it's centre point.

Jimbob Tanktop
#2 Posted by Jimbob Tanktop on 2 Dec 2016 at 15:25 PM
By the time they complete all of their consultation exercises the Earth's geological shift will have turned the gardens into a lake.
Don Diamante
#3 Posted by Don Diamante on 2 Dec 2016 at 16:43 PM
The problem is, anything proposed now which is sub-world class will only ever be viewed as a cheap and poor attempt to paper over the cracks (no junkie pun intended), instead of the publicly backed design the last council threw out just to win votes.

If the council are expecting anything more than a half-hearted shrug of the public's shoulders, I think they will be greatly disappointed. Meh.

Did anyone else think they'd changed the night time theatre sign to "His Testy's"??
#4 Posted by Terra on 2 Dec 2016 at 17:37 PM
By Jove, those renders are tacky.
#5 Posted by CadMonkey on 3 Dec 2016 at 15:27 PM
Half hearted shrug of the shoulders.

I quite like the luminous plants though.
Are they painted with luminous paint?
Bill S
#6 Posted by Bill S on 3 Dec 2016 at 15:57 PM

The Labour administration were purely and only voted in for one reason, that they scrap the SIW partially backed proposals for UTG. People seem to have short memories.

Back in 2009, Brisac Gonzalez got full planning permission for a new Peacock Visual Arts building in UTG. The fully funded project would have been complete, and open for a few years by now if the SNP led administration had not abandoned it, in favour of exploring a partially funded option offered by Sir Ian Wood.

This option was put to an invited competition, then the public went to make their opinions known at consultation held in The Academy, and voted for which design they wanted to move forwards on. The results of this consultation actually had the public voting for a Norman Foster scheme, which was considerably less invasive on UTG and the surrounds. However, SIW's funding was only on the table if the whole of UTG was covered, and the ‘Granite Web’ by Diller Scofidio + Renfro was picked by the powers that be, thus ignoring the public.

The City then held a referendum in December 2011 which had an incredible turnout, with the question being put to residents on whether they wanted to retain the gardens as they were, or see the £140 million City Garden Project taken forward. This was crucial, as the question only offered the Granite Web scheme as the building alternative, with the other option to leave UTG as it was. 52% of the respondents voted in favour for development.

Labour were voted into power in the 2013 local authority elections, purely based on the promise to scrap this result. They were voted in by the public, then they scrapped the result as per their promise.
Buff Hardie
#7 Posted by Buff Hardie on 4 Dec 2016 at 09:35 AM
Correct, Bill.

Labour made a complete hash of it by ignoring a public referendum vote and have continued to done so over the last 5 years, even after sacking Barney Crockett.

And these student photoshops are where we are now.

Bill S
#8 Posted by Bill S on 4 Dec 2016 at 12:24 PM
Buff Hardie, I think you are missing a point. For Labour to have been voted in power on a single issue, then they must have had public support. In addition, the SNP / Lib Dem administration ignored the public backed decision twice before then, once ignoring the PVA scheme, then secondly putting forward the Granite Web scheme that the public did not vote for to the referendum. I agree that Labour have been woeful in power since then, but I think it's disingenuous to suggest that it is entirely their fault for stalled progress.
#9 Posted by Matt on 4 Dec 2016 at 17:16 PM
....Anyway, back to the here and now...this is an appallingly bland scheme.
LDA, according to their website, do fairly insipid, commercial landscaping....the left over bits in between insipid, commercial architecture. We are now in a position where the gardens are best left as they are rather than opting for this dross...
Bill S
#10 Posted by Bill S on 5 Dec 2016 at 09:14 AM
Matt, this is all intrinsically linked though. These poor decisions by the City Fathers have been going on for so long, and now it seems that once again, the citizens of Aberdeen have been left with a decision to keep the gardens as they are, or opt for that proposed dross as you stated accurately.
Don Diamante
#11 Posted by Don Diamante on 5 Dec 2016 at 10:23 AM
Bill S
I think it's a stretch of the imagination to conclude that Labour were voted in purely on the basis of their proposal to scrap a democratically decided referendum. In fact, I'd go as far as to suggest it's deluded to think that.

Regardless, I'm not getting political.

I fully agree with you on the Gonzalez scheme, if built it would have done more for the gardens than any of the resulting schemes. I was genuinely angry seeing the initial Ian Wood proposals by HFM, nothing better than a concrete-slabbed yard in the centre of town, broken up by a few random plant pots. This is the bandwagon that the media and protesters jumped on (myself included) - "don't concrete over the gardens", which shows exactly the anger that poor architecture can generate, and that's exactly what it was, Poor Architecture.

Although Wood's input ultimately led to the world class competition, it should have been either acknowledged much earlier that the whole scheme was financially nonviable, or an irreversible commitment (squarely aimed at the political parties) made to carry out the work of the chosen design. For the record I also supported the Foster scheme.

Once again we are short-changed, and I guarantee even this lame scheme won't be built. There is too much respect given to the protest mob, in my opinion. We should just get on with it and leave the experts to tell us what will work best (ie Gonzalez, Foster etc)... In My Opinion!
Buff Hardie
#12 Posted by Buff Hardie on 5 Dec 2016 at 11:16 AM
In any case, there is a good chance this proposal will never see the light of day.

The local elections are in May and if SNP they can step in and stop it (as Labour did last time...). There isn't enough time for Labour to rubber stamp this and it won't have cross party support.

Oh, and the public haven't voted for it.
#13 Posted by RM on 5 Dec 2016 at 22:51 PM
#6 nonsense Labour were not voted in to scrap UTG, the SNP ended up with the most councillors but were outvoted out due to the collapse of the Lib Dems & Labour getting into bed with the Tories in a joint administration.
#14 Posted by FHM on 6 Dec 2016 at 09:48 AM
#11 and #13, oh you are both so naive as to the fickle and parochial attitudes of the Aberdonian citizens when it comes to voting and the their relationship to UTG.
Bill S
#15 Posted by Bill S on 6 Dec 2016 at 09:59 AM
Don Diamante and RM: Labour's manifesto from 2013 was pretty much written around the fiasco surrounding the UTG debacle, and hence it does not take much effort to conclude that one of the main reasons, if not the only reason, people voted for them was to get the referendum decision overturned. Mind you, that is only my opinion as an inhabitant.
Buff Hardie
#16 Posted by Buff Hardie on 6 Dec 2016 at 12:21 PM
Bill you're right - Labour got in by the skin of their teeth and it was centred around scrapping the UTG project.

They instead gave us the wonderful Marischal Square project which is a commercial monstrosity, thanks to the delicate touches of go-to-parochial-artistes HFM.
Bill S
#17 Posted by Bill S on 6 Dec 2016 at 13:46 PM
Buff, I cannot disagree there either. Awful decision by the Labour administration for Marischal Square. Every time I pass by it seems more bloated and bulging upwards to the skies.

I believe we need a radical rethink in how Local Authorities in the UK approach master-planning and architecture. One controversial way would be for a slight increase in Council Tax (how this will be marketed positively I have no idea, but I can well imagine the reception an increase would be received) to create a fund to allow the head planners to go and visit a number of relevant cities across Europe to see how they approach new development, as it seems to me these places do it so much better than us in the UK.

There is a precedent for this type of study already, as a deputation of the Council visited Rotterdam and Vienna during the Interwar Period to study contemporary housing schemes, of which the most notable production is Rosemount Square.
Theo Paphitis
#18 Posted by Theo Paphitis on 6 Dec 2016 at 14:25 PM
I was at the consultation on Saturday. All this scheme does really is improve accessibility for less able-bodied persons from the Roesemount Viaduct end. Visually and functionally it is not a hugely significant improvement on what is there already but to be fair to the designers this is presumably the (pared-down) brief they were given.

While there, I listened to one of the people, presumably a designer, explain to an older gentleman what the proposal was doing in excessively flowery architectural language. Meanwhile I am picking the bones out of the 7 (sic) images they produced, in particular looking for image no 7 which would presumably show what the intentions are at the Union Street end, arguably the most important side for the majority of footfall expected to be encouraged to patronise the gardens. Regrettably there was no image no7, and no other image showing a view from, or with context of, Union Street. I'm more or less OK with what's proposed at the northern end but the southern, busier end, has not been given enough consideration as I see it.

In effect it is £20m for steps and ramps. Too much of an investment for too little gain.

And for that reason I'm out.
#19 Posted by WAC on 19 Dec 2016 at 16:54 PM
I have heard it got 85% Public Approval ratings? People seem to like the idea that they can get in and out of the gardens and the heritage is maintained with new facilities seems ok to me
#20 Posted by Cateran on 8 Jan 2017 at 00:05 AM
Disappointing. Don't we do world class any more with regards to landscaping? Dundee did it with buildings in the form of the V & A so why not Aberdeen with this?

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