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New search for Union Terrace Gardens design team begins

Diller Scofidio + Renfro's victorious Union Terrace proposals for Aberdeen
  • 1 Comment

Aberdeen City Council is seeking a design team for a £17 million revamp of Union Terrace Gardens (UTG) – four years after abandoning Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s (DS+R) contentious proposals

Planned to complete in 2019, the project will restore the sunken Victorian garden which has remained unchanged since the New York firm’s £140 million makeover was scrapped.

Transformed into a park in 1879, the prominent city centre site would have been infilled and raised to street level under the private-public proposal known as the City Garden Project (pictured).

DS+R won a high-profile international contest for the scheme which replaced earlier competition-winning plans by Brisac Gonzales Architecture for an arts centre on the same site.

Despite a city-wide referendum in support of the ambitious overhaul – supported by a £50 million donation from oil entrepreneur Ian Wood – councillors voted in favour of a less expensive programme of city centre upgrades in 2012.

The latest project will restore the gardens and new create artists’ studios, cafés and a gallery in the arches alongside an amphitheatre and a bridge from Union Street to Belmont Street. An extension of the gardens to Denburn and Woolmanhill in the north may also be included.

According to the brief: ‘This design commission will deliver a transformational regeneration scheme for UTG that is not simply about historic restoration of the site but must also deliver a functional, attractive and active environment that will become a favourite space for residents, workers and visitors to Aberdeen City Centre.

‘The ambition is to enhance the status of the gardens and to build upon this unique destination in Aberdeen, offering traditional park experiences alongside new ideas for events, retail, horticulture, art and technology in the park.

‘Key to this will be the enhancement of visual and physical access into and through the gardens and improving connectivity to the surrounding city.’

The winner of the £750,000 contract will review an existing conceptual masterplan, analyse feedback from previous consultations and draw up detailed plans for the gardens. Management of the construction process up to handover and close out will also be required.

The chosen team will be expected to include an architect, landscape architect, structural engineer, lighting designer, sustainability consultant, cost consultant and commercial consultant.

The deadline for applications is 4pm on 25 July.

How to apply

View the contract notice for more information

Contact details

Iain Reid
Aberdeen City Council
Town House
Castle Street
AB10 1AA

Tel: +44 1224523356
Email: isreid@aberdeencity.gov.uk


  • Neil Baxter, RIAS secretary and treasurer

This sounds like a very sensible approach to revitalising the gardens. We wish Aberdeen well with this endeavour. The architectural profession tends to show goodwill and get behind good ideas. This would seem like such an opportunity. Hopefully the competition will require the necessary minimum of work from competitors (ie indicative rather than detailed proposals) in order to reach a decision.

Public construction procurement in Scotland is going through significant change. Compliance with the new regulations and full compliance with Europe, particularly in an open competition, may present challenges. I am sure the Council’s advisors will be fully aware of these issues.

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • Surely the brief would be pretty well met by the original competition winners (although I don't know what their original design would cost to build - perhaps Sir Ian Wood could be prevailed upon to make up the difference from all or part of the £50 million that he previously offered).
    Going back to Brisac Gonzalez might involve some of the city politicians having to swallow their pride, and I don't know how easy that would be - and Brisac Gonzalez might take some persuading after their previous treatment, they'd be justified in asking for their money up front. But, compared with London's 'garden bridge', their scheme surely represented a far more worthy and less contentious (really) asset to a city.
    They are genuine competition winners - and, as far as I can recollect, Sir Ian Wood's sponsorship for the DS+R design was offered without strings.

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