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LDA wins latest commission in Union Terrace Gardens saga

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LDA Design has been chosen for a £17 million revamp of Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens (UTG) four years after Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s (DS+R) contentious proposals were abandoned

The studio was chosen for the estimated £750,000 contract ahead of an unconfirmed shortlist of rivals – understood to have included Halliday Fraser Munro and Foster + Partners.

Planned to complete in 2019, the Aberdeen City Council-backed 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 ’surprise valley’ would have been infilled and raised to street level under the private-public proposal known as the City Garden Project (pictured below).

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 along with new lifts, ramps and stairs.

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.’

LDA Design 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.

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

Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s victorious Union Terrace proposals for Aberdeen

Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s victorious Union Terrace proposals for Aberdeen


Kirstin Taylor, Project Director, LDA Design

’The city centre masterplan provides a powerful vision to set Aberdeen apart on the global stage and the Gardens have a huge part to play. The Masterplan attracted lots of positive local engagement which we want to harness. We see the community’s ongoing participation as key to the Gardens’ success.

’Union Terrace Gardens have great beauty and charm, and can be revitalised in a way that completely respects and enhances their 19th century heritage. They can offer traditional park enjoyment alongside new ideas and uses, and LDA Design is experienced in securing this kind of careful balance.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Excellent news, and hopefully an end to grandiose dreams of character assassination - just as long as the powers that be don't do a reverse ferret, this is Aberdeen.

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