Grand designs leave a city divided
DESIGNS created by six of the world’s leading architectural firms for the controversial transformation of Union Terrace Gardens in Aberdeen have been unveiled to a bitterly divided public in the city.
The architects’ visions to turn the Victorian gardens into an “iconic” city centre landscape range from a space-age web of three dimensional pathways to a winter gardens that will glow like the “Northern Lights” at night and proposals to transform part of the park into an urban beach.
Malcolm Reading, an architectural expert who acted as adviser to the jury panel, claimed yesterday the residents of Aberdeen would be “awe-struck” by the “inspirational and innovative” designs chosen to create a new heart for the Granite City.
He said: “It is no longer ‘shall we build or shan’t we build?’ These are six visions of the future of exceptional quality in terms of design. It doesn’t get better than this.”
But Andrew MacGregor, secretary of the protest group Friends of Union Terrace Gardens, condemned the shortlisted designs as an “absolute abomination”. He said: “We have already had a public vote, and the public has said that they want the gardens to remain as they are.
“We don’t want the gardens to be turned into a concrete space-age flyover or anything else.”
He added: “We will have rolling protests at the exhibition venue until the public exhibition is finished.”
Members of the public will be given a chance to have their say when the exhibition of the models and design drawings go on show at the Academy in Belmont Street today.
But the jury panel will decide the winning entry when it meets on 8 November, with the winner announced in mid-November.
The illustrious list of architects on the shortlist includes the company run by the acclaimed British architect Lord Norman Foster, the designer behind the landmark Gherkin at London’s Canary Wharf, the architects who designed the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial in London and the Norwegian team responsible for the memorial pavilion honouring the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack on Manhattan.
Details of the design team behind each scheme are being kept secret as part of the judging process.
Mr Reading said he hoped the shortlisted designs would “raise the level of debate” in the city. He continued: “I hope the public will be amazed and inspired. People I have already taken around the exhibition have been absolutely awestruck that something like this is possible.
“This is a special moment in the competition where, for the first time, we can see how these six remarkable teams envision the City Garden for Aberdeen. The designs are exceptional – all of them memorable in their own way, and visually rich and inspired combinations of landscape, urban design and architecture.”
However, Mike Shepherd, the chairman of Friends of Union Terrace Gardens, said: “The world’s architects are being asked what the centre of Aberdeen should look like. The people of Aberdeen were also asked and were ignored.
“Why should the council spend millions on a modern city garden when we are perfectly happy with the one we have got. This is both inanity and insanity.”
The £140 million project is being championed by oil tycoon Sir Ian Wood, who has pledged £50 million of his personal fortune towards the scheme.
Jennifer Craw, speaking on behalf of the Wood family trust, said: “The ambition for the city garden project hasalways been to act as catalyst in the transformation of the city centre and to create a new and beating heart for the city.”
But Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Greig, a long-standing opponent of the project, claimed: “All around our city there are streets, schools, parks and other public facilities deteriorating seriously due to lack of income into the council’s budget. These should be the priority.”
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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