CitySquare Design Competition fails to generate anticipated level of interest

One hundred and fifty entries!

On the morning of the 21st April 2011, the Press & Journal triumphantly proclaimed that there was Worldwide interest over plan to transform city-centre gardens and stated that “Mr. Reading expects around 150 teams to register an interest in the project before June 13“.

One hundred and fifty One hundred entries!

By the time sister publication the Evening Express appeared on 21st April, despite carrying a headline that there was “Huge interest in city challenge” a new, less ambitious target of 100 teams was being quoted, with Malcolm Reading credited as saying he “expected at least 100 design teams to enter“. Note that all talk is of “teams“, so even at an early stage it was anticipated that there would be collaborative efforts rather than entries from individual practices.

Given the current economic climate and oft-cited lack of design and construction projects, one would think that a competition for any scheme of sufficient merit – especially one on which so much was being spent on PR – would have had no problem in achieving the anticipated expressions of interest from 100 teams.

One hundred and fifty  One hundred  Fifty Five entries! ONLY FIFTY FIVE?

So it came as a great surprise to learn on the 15th June 2011 that the Malcolm Reading Consultants run competition had not only failed to attract the anticipated number of entries but had received notes of interest from a mere 55 teams!

Undaunted the Press & Journal of 16th June told us “dazzling line-up from around the globe bids for £140m project” and went on to fill several column inches boosting the scheme while conveniently opting not to mention the failure to reach the anticipated figure of 150 entries they had trumpeted earlier.

A tale of two cities ?

Ongoing international controversy surrounding the Malcolm Reading Consultants led design competition for the Glasgow School of Art extension could not have helped attract entries to this CitySquare competition.  This saw an unsympathetic design selected for an extension to one of Scotland’s – and arguably Europe’s – most significant pieces of urban architecture (See Nooks & Corners Private Eye No. 1285; Guardian 25th Feb 2011 : “Outcry over Glasgow School of Art extension”).

The following extract from a letter highly respected architectural historian William J.R. Curtis had published in Glasgow Architecture certainly makes interesting reading …

“The recent Council Report on the Holl scheme for the Glasgow School of Art is a preposterous document full of slanted information and half truths. It is not worthy of an open democratic society where transparency should reign. Why are people trying to hide so much in an effort at sliding this totally inadequate architectural project through?? ….

One of the most preposterous features of the Report is its repression of the truth concerning the negative press that the scheme has received.. I have rarely seen anything like this but we are told in this zany document that the media have been ‘laudatory’!! Black is white and up is down..no wonder these folks are having a hard time seeing what the average taxi driver can see, namely that this building is totally out of place and out of scale. The mountains of verbiage in the Report read like spells and incantations, a wish list of all the things that the Holl project is supposed to be but is not. The path to architectural mediocrity is pathed with politically correct intentions. But we are obliged to live in buildings not edifices spun with empty words.

As there is a propaganda effort in the recent Council Report at down-playing the criticism of the Holl scheme in the media, it is important to set the record straight. I am quite used to being the ‘invisible man’ but the Report takes this denial of my widely published and discussed critical positions of the Holl scheme to an extreme: I am quite simply not mentioned at all!! It is a bit like one of those official photos where inconvenient individuals are airbrushed out!!”

Strong words there from Dr. Curtis – different project, different city, but perhaps some similar issues ?

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This entry was posted in Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Aberdeen City Council, ACSEF, Architecture, city gardens project, city square project, newspapers, Scotland and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to CitySquare Design Competition fails to generate anticipated level of interest

  1. I understand that there may be a referendum or consultation about the outcome of Union Terrace Gardens by the citizens of Aberdeen? – We do have a problem however. It is sort of turning out like the devolution vote of the late 70s! Then the government demanded 40% of the WHOLE voting population of Scotland (argued strenuously against by the SNP and the then Liberals I believe) before the devolution plebiscite was lost. The Labour Government knew that 25-35% (nothing changes) was the general turnout for elections. Now we are faced with an almost similar situation against those supporting keeping Union Terrace Gardens and will be forced possibly to find votes to beat a heavily manipulated decision process. This means we must have a BIGGER VOTE than the COMBINATION of ALL of the last 6 from the international design competition. This would mean that even if the supporters of the Union Terrace Gardens, who always wanted a heritage upgrade of UTG, had more votes than the highest acceptable design by the ‘APPOINTED JURY’ it will be ignored! In Northern Ireland before 1967 it was called Gerrymandering, when business owners had two votes therefore disenfranchising a large section of the community. – What will it be called in Aberdeen in 5-10-20 years time? Gerrymandering is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party group or concept by manipulation.. We must be concerned by this manipulation of citizens by political and business interests. No change of Union Terrace Gardens without fair input!!

  2. Pingback: A look at the City Square Short leet | Moved to comment

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