So, having failed to meet milestone after milestone, the City Square Gardens Design Competition has at long last drawn to a close and the Aberdeen City Gardens Trust has its final solution.
Was keeping two designs “in play” just a ploy to keep the competition going and let the announcement of the winner blur into the Union Terrace Gardens referendum campaign allowing the City Gardens Project to generate extra publicity for their scheme? Who knows, so lets take a final look at the two designs before we find out who the winner is.
Sterile, stale and uninspiring are just three of the words that have been used to describe the “Team 1” scheme – a cross between Tellytubby land and a ’70s skatepark with myriad opportunities for graffiti artists and multiple jumping off points for the suicidal. Contempt for heritage is shown by the fact that the historical features of the gardens are wiped away with the distinctive (and listed) granite balustrades going the same way as the mature trees. Reckon this one is the DSR and Keppie entry.
While it is the demise of the balustrades that initially catch the eye, look again. The blurred lights supposedly show motion but for an illustrator it sometimes pays dividends to find out something about the context of what you are working on. This illustration shows cars driving on the right hand side of the road – and speaking as someone who cycles along Union Terrace most days, I can categorically state that cars actually drive on the left hand side here. Of course there is always the possibility that this illustration is intended to convey the notion that by the time the scheme was finsihed, following a successful outcome in the independence referendum, Scotland may have elected to switch to left-hand drive 😉
While on the subject of Scottish Independence, it is interesting to note that the ACGT / ACC are apparently trying to tie in the City Gardens Project with a bid to become UK City of Culture in 2017. It will be interesting to see what the stance of the 15 SNP councillors on Aberdeen City Council is here – why would they back an attempt to become a “UK City of Culture” in 2017 when our First Minister Alex Salmond is confident of leading us towards independence with a victory in the referendum in 2014?
The “Team 2” design – The Maggot – bears the hallmarks of a Foster design but while the Gherkin towers erect over the London skyline, this Maggot flaccidly flops over the Denburn. It is interesting to note the lengths to which Norrie’s loons have gone to try and generate the illusion that their design retains the existing gardens. On the Team 2 submission board under the tagline “Protecting the gardens, transforming the setting” there is an image which shows this grotesque maggot blended into an oblique aerial shot of Union Terrace Gardens giving the false impression that much of the park is retained as is. Closer inspection reveals that the geometries presented do not equate to what is shown in the aforementioned image. Of course, the illustrations also conveninetly fail to include Stewartie Milne’s Triple Kirks development which has a large visual impact and in fact occupies some areas Team 2 have marked as gardens. The mature trees, Kelly’s Cats and the views of Union Bridge and the Denburn Viaduct would all disapear in the Team 2 scheme and the destruction of the mature trees (by either Team 1 or 2 scheme) has led one commentator to write about Union Treeless Gardens.
The lack of attention to detail shown by Team 2 is perhaps best illustrated by examination of their snowy shot ( second page of Team 2 submission board proposal linked above ) – lets home in on their representation of the arches under Union Terrace :
The casual observer – or one in Switzerland – may not immediately notice anything wrong here – but to anyone with a passing knowledge of Aberdeen’s architecture there is a glaring error which conveys a lack of concern for detail.
The Union Terrace arches have a definitive signature – and that signature is based on the auld Bow Brig – the stones from which form one of the arches and the motif from which is echoed in each of the arches …
“In due course the stones of the old Bow Brig were put to new and important use, being incorporated into one of the arches of the arcade constructed on the upper part of the terrace of Union Terrace Gardens. Indeed the dressed ashlar band around the archway, which was a feature of John Jean’s little bridge became the template for all the subsequent arches along the entire terrace, creating a very impressive open arcade.” (writes David Miller in Aberdeen A Heritage Remembered).
If Team 2 cant get simple details like this correct – how can we trust their costings etc. ?
In the City Square Gardens design competition, there is only one winner – Malcolm Reading Consultants who have made a tidy sum from running the competition.
On 1st March, the citizens of Aberdeen will have their chance to vote to decide whether they want to retain their public park or allow the developers to move in with their bulldozers and chainsaws.