Monday, 25 November 2013

Wonderful Woodside

The work of genius - Halliday Fraser Munro at Woodside, Aberdeen
You know, last week when I was presenting my expert professional view on a range of boring town planning journals, my curiosity was aroused by a little snippet of information from Scott Leach, one of the Halliday Fraser Munro magicians who have brought so much to the fascinating world of town planning. I'm referring to architecture that leaves us all speechless with delight and great plans which rank amongst the finest strategies and town planning solutions across Scotland and Europe - or even the world!

Scott had made a passing reference to a 400 home development at Woodside in the great city of Aberdeen - the epicentre of dynamic growth in the Scottish economy and a place which extends a warm welcome to rich and clever people, especially if they are promoting fantastic money-making development proposals and trampling over sandal-wearing middle class do-gooders, conservationists and public sector layabouts. Well I looked up the Woodside proposal on the world wide web and was astounded by what I saw and read. It led to an evening of total exhaustion and fulfillment here at Auchterness.

Initially, there was disappointment. HFM hide their lights under a bushel - their website is simply a contact page. Clever because when you think about it, a firm like that doesn't want to expose itself to the first person that comes along. There has to be courtship and understanding first - trust and mutual appreciation and consent. John Halliday won't get his big pencil out of his trouser pocket for just anyone!

After a quick expert search of Google I discovered a file in PDF (that's Portable Document Format to the uninitiated) which promised to reveal all. I was quivering with excitement. At first I thought I had been led astray - this work was commissioned by the Aberdeen Lads Club among others. I didn't know that sort of thing existed in Aberdeen but you learn a little every day. Shocking!

I downloaded the document and printed it. As I bent over the printer, a bead of sweat dropped from my forehead, smudging some of the print. I wiped it away and caressed the pages as they slowly emerged. Then I carefully punched two holes so that I could file them in my big folder of important things and settled down with a cup of cocoa.

To be perfectly honest, I have never read anything so inspiring or seen drawings that made my heart beat so quickly - I thought I was having a seizure. Take this for example: "The character of old Aberdeen is derived from the scale, proportion and grouping of buildings and the spaces created by them". Wonderful and almost poetic! A 1:1 spatial ratio - that will bamboozle the numpties!

There's a lot of box ticking going on too - which is great! Shared spaces, a 'destination' village square, surface finishes, buildings defining streets, street hierarchy, planting areas in front of houses (a garden) and no footpaths. Challenging! I found myself sweating profusely as I read and re-read these wonderful pages. It's planning at the very cutting edge!

When it was all over I was completely exhausted. It was as if John Halliday's big pencil had penetrated the walls of my wee home here in Auchterness and spread a warm flow of architectural and planning goodness across my living room floor. It was a very special evening. I would like to congratulate everyone involved in this project - it gets a gold star on the top right hand corner and 10/10 in my little black book.

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