LDA Design hopes it will be fourth time lucky in Aberdeen

Practice is latest to be appointed to £17m Union Terrace Gardens revamp


LDA Design has been appointed to redesign Aberdeen’s city centre Union Terrace Gardens – four years after a £140 million design by Diller Scofidio & Renfro was ditched.

The winning team beat competition from nearly a dozen rivals who are thought to include Foster & Partners.

LDA will work with Coltart Earley Architects and Threesixty Architecture which will be responsible for conservation and retail respectively.

The new scheme - costing £17 million - will be based on the 25-year city centre masterplan which was approved in 2015, with LDA continuing a consultation process before submitting plans early next year.

The Victorian sunken gardens, which take their shape from the topography of the Denburn Valley, have seen off a string of high-profile practices in the last decade.

Brisac Gonzalez’s £13 million arts project for the site was torpedoed in 2009 when a £140 million project was unveiled featuring underground retail, parking and transport beneath the main civic space.

At that point it was designed by Martha Schwartz and local practice Halliday Fraser Munro.

But eventually a high-profile competition was launched with Diller Scofidio & Renfro, working with Keppie and Olin Studio, beating Fosters, Gareth Hoskins, Niall McLaughlin and Mecanoo in January 2012.

The scheme was partly bankrolled by oil tycoon Ian Wood but proved highly divisive, with opponents including Aberdeen-born singer Annie Lennox. She dubbed it “another dog’s dinner of crap concrete development, ravaging the only authentic, historical green space in the city centre”.

The scheme was finally ditched in August 2012 after a tight vote by city councillors.

LDA’s proposal is far more modest and could involve lifts, ramps and steps to improve access, a multi-purpose space to allow year-round events, and use of some historic arches for retail, refreshments and artists’ studios.

The regeneration project will be led from LDA Design’s Glasgow office.  Project director Kirstin Taylor said: “[The gardens] can be revitalised in a way that completely respects and enhances their 19th-century heritage. Traditional park enjoyment can be balanced alongside new ideas and uses.”

A brief history of Union Terrace Gardens

In 1868, the architect James Matthews suggested that the area of Union Terrace should be turned into a pleasure ground for the people of Aberdeen. Work began in November 1877 and, when the gates were finally opened to the public in August 1879, the band of Gordon’s Hospital played a “selection of pleasing airs”. The park was officially named Union Terrace Gardens but also became known as the “Trainie Park” because of its proximity to the railway.


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