Saturday, 10 October 2009

Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen

the existing slum gardens
You know, these community meetings are just a gossip shop and a waste of my valuable time. I've spent hours listening to people droning on about dog mess, discarded condoms and broken glass when I could have been watching Strictly Come Dancing. It just reinforced in my mind how great it is when people just do what they want and ignore the babbling pack of idle worthless peasants. Which brings me to a current hero of mine - Sir Ian Wood!
Sir Ian Wood
Now Sir Ian used to be my boss years ago in SE and even then I thought he was a mover and shaker - a Puppet Master for the hordes of creeps that inhabit the higher echelons of public service in Scotland. Sir Ian is now a multi-millionaire - maybe more - and while he is not as good looking as the Great Donald Trump, he knows a thing or two about town planning and is a true Renaissance Man for Scotland. It takes one to know one!

So Sir Ian has come up with his own plan to fill in the hole that is known as Union Terrace Gardens in Aberdeen. I remember he wanted to do that years ago so now he has kindly provided a cool £50 million or so to backfill the whole issue thereby putting an end to the ill-informed debate about park or arts centre or whatever. One of the stupid alternative proposals is shown below (notice they show a railway in the foreground - I thought we were trying to get rid of these and replace them with good roads).
the stupid alternative
So now we can just get on with it. A hole is a hole - simple - fill it in. You would do the same with a hole in the road. You have to admire that no nonsense approach to town planning. I was across in Aberdeen recently and have to agree that Union Terrace Gardens is unsafe, dark, sloping and green - that's my expert analysis from a town planning perspective.
the dream scheme
Anyway he hired Halliday Fraser Munro who we know can really bash out a fuss free solution to anything - petrol filling stations, lock-up garages, you name it. What a job they have done - it's clean and flat and simple. Absolutely breathtaking in its bold conception, it's bigger than Trafalgar Square in London or St Mark's in Venice! Yes! Now Aberdeen can be a world city. It's better than wasting your time with community groups!

You see, you can always trust rich people to have the best ideas and to pick the best firms of designers to do their bidding.


Anonymous said...


Dave Thompson said...

thanks Anonymous for participating - with every best wish to you - Dave T

Anonymous said...

You have absolutely no clue do you?

That "hole" is a unique green space built by forward thinking people with a real sense of civic duty. It exists as a much needed antidote to the drab gray commercial totalitarian facade of modern Aberdeen.

The Victorians had a real pride in their city and a selfless sense of philanthropy that Ian Wood couldn't even dream of possessing. If it was true philanthropy he would pay for the whole thing. All £300 million plus that this monstrosity will eat and finally bankrupt and destroy a crippled city.

As for your so educated deeming of the Art Centre plan as "stupid" just google "arts led urban regeneration" and see where the future lies.

It definately doesn't lend to overblown featureless vanity projects with as much vision as an underground car park!

Anonymous said...

"You see, you can always trust rich people to have the best ideas and to pick the best firms of designers to do their bidding."

I've reserved a first place ticket for you against the wall come the revolution

Dave Thompson said...

Dear Anonymous, thank you again for your valuable contribution to the debate. With every best wish to you - Dave T

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Anonymous. Paving paradise to put up another parking lot is an abhorent idea that shows a complete lack of understanding of the environmental and ecological impact of 'filling in a hole'. Do you feel the same way about Princes' Street Gardens in Edinburgh? Shall we fill that in also in the name of progress and urban regeneration? The plans mooted by Peacock Visual Arts are not only both imaginative and innovative but also manage to work in conjunction with our heritage allowing our cherished landscape to flourish in a manner befitting the philanthropy of 21st century civic and ecological duties. As the debate stand at the moment Iam sad to say that I cannot see the trees for the Wood.

Dave Thompson said...

Dear Anonymous, thanks for joining in the debate. I think your fair city is beginning to stretch its legs into the 21st century and hanging on to these old features, especially when they are dark and dreary, seems wrong to me. Of course I would let the same thing happen in Edinburgh which is really struggling to fight off the dark cloud of conservationists and other lovers of the past. With every best wish to you - Dave

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion and I have to side with Mr T here. This is what Aberdeen needs.
Victorians were forward thinking in their day but so are we and we have to move with the times.
Mr Woods proposals do include Art space for all (not just visual arts) so I cant understand the vitriol against it. It is not a parking lot, a paved over hole, or a rich mans folly but a visionary project with nothing but the benefit of Aberdeen people in mind.

Dave Thompson said...

Thank you Anonymous for participating in the discussion. With every best wish to you - Dave T

Anonymous said...

Sorry Dave, you'll need to do more to convince me that spending hundreds of millions of pounds of public money on a giant patio with a car park below is of more use than a centre for the arts that is basically paid for and has planning permission. This cannot be justified with all of service cut backs the council has had to make in recent times.

You make comparisons to other European cities but the only thing that makes these places worthwhile is the art!!! We'll do it the Aberdeen way, build a giant square and fill it with shops that will leave when the City runs out of oil. This is not economic sustainability.

And to suggest that following rich people blindly in their vision is absolutely insane, that is generally what makes city planning poor in my opinion. I can't name one thing that has been added to Aberdeen since I have lived here that has been an improvement.

I don't have an account so I'll come up as anonymous but my name is Colin.

Dave Thompson said...

Thank you Colin for your thoughtful remarks - I very much appreciate the contribution to the debate. I also appreciate that I am outnumbered by people who prefer the other approach to Union Terrace. So be it - that is what it's all about. With every best wish - Dave T

alistair said...

Hi Dave, i found your post to be fascinating and to the point. It seems that the responses seem to be unaware of irony as a concept; are your readers all American?

Anonymous said...

Thompson has omitted to mention the common view that Aberdeen is just not grey enough. There is this sunken garden area with a hectare of green. And this spoils the whole thing. So we need to cover it up. Get rid of those old trees - they even go brown in the winter.
Some might think that Ian Wood might spend some money endowing something useful at the University or the hospital. But he probably reckons he could achieve greater immortality for his name by destroying some of the wonderful legacy handed down by our Victorian and Edwardian forebears.

On the other hand this might spark a trend! Just think how we could improve the centre of Edinburgh by covering over Princes Street Gardens

emmdee said...

Ah, another motorist with a plan. If you'd ever walked the length of Union Street and stopped to cross at the lights at Union Terrace you'd have experienced the gale force wind that is funnelled up Bridge Street and which would blow all over the top of your "filled up hole" or airport runway as the rest of us will call it, turning old newspapers into kites and filling everyone's eyes with grit. If Sir Wood has £50Million burning a hole in his pocket he can rescue the Bon Accord Baths and even put his name on it "The Sir I.Wood Olympic Training Pool" That's what I would do.

AbzWayne said...

Hello Dave,

One of my concerns with this whole " fill in the hole " idea is the damage that will come about from the destruction of a Victorian Terraced Garden which is a part of the City of Aberdeen's history.

Now please do not get me wrong, I am very impressed that Sir Ian Wood is willing to put forward £50 million of a contribution towards a city square, but the plain simple fact remains. The citizens of Aberdeen voted against the destruction of UTG, by 55% of the voters taking part.

That tells me that the majority of the public are not interested in losing a historic landmark which is also a perfectly usable " Green Space " within Aberdeen's city centre.

I do like the idea of a decent Civic Square within Aberdeen, I really think the city could benefit from such a thing, but the simple fact remains that these following places: Castlegate, St Nicholas, The Green and Merchant Quarters are not as utilised as they could be.

Personally, I think a more apt idea would be to hold off on the City Square Project until the old council offices on broad street in the St Nicholas area become vacant and make your City Square there instead, it is right outside Marischal College, its self a historic building, there is already a green area in the centre of the U shape that surrounds it and lastly it is sheltered from the wind by the E&M building on Union Street.

I am not a learned person, no trade behind my belt to fall back upon and use my "Professional Opinion", I have a healthy respect for them that do, to me, the main issue was the citizens, they don't want it, am sure it wasn't a slur on Sir Ian Wood, it's just this one thing.

We, the people of Aberdeen, voted on the destruction of our Union Terrace Gardens with a majority and said this. " Leave It Alone "

Thank you for posting your blog, it is nice to see other persons opinions on what is a topical subject.

I hope this comment finds you well.


Wayne "AbzWayne" Leiper

Anonymous said...

I'm originally from Aberdeen and have lived in London now for 10 years. I love my home town but hate the beyond provincial attitudes of the residents of the Oil capital of Europe. No one uses the Union Terrace Gardens even when I was a child I remember the tramps and glue sniffers there, right in the hart of the city in the dank damp dark Union terrace gardens. I also remember the Bon Accord centre being built, "ripping the heart of of the city" was the P&J headline. I thought things would have moved on in 20 years. I say yes, yes yes.

Anonymous said...

you are being ironic- aren't you?