One of the very first posts I wrote on this blog, in May 2010, was about how sad our family was when Aberdeen City Council voted to revamp Union Terrace Gardens, despite a public referendum voting against any change. The project has since been turned over to a body of unelected businesspeople. (How a major project involving public land can be handed over by the Council to such a body has never been satisfactorily explained, in my view.) A competition has been held, and for two weeks there is an exhibition of the six finalists. Citizens can look at models and drawings, and “cast a vote” ranking the six entries. Whether this “vote” will hold the same amount of sway as the public referendum remains to be seen.
In case you’ve never been to Aberdeen, here is what the Victorian park in the centre of the city looks like:
The light changed and I stepped just a bit to my left and took this self-referential photo of some women taking a photo:
So that’s what we have at the moment. Below is my least favourite of the six entries for revamping the park:
Most of the other entries contain a lot of concrete, and/or enormous structures (one of which looks like a triumphal arch made of Topple Blocks). But there is one entry that seeks to maintain the gardens more or less as they are, while covering over the adjacent road and railway with an extension of the park that’s under a kind of modern glasshouse:
This design was the only one of the six I felt I could at all live with. But I still am strongly opposed to spending millions of pounds on redoing a perfectly lovely park, when so much support for vulnerable people, health care, education and so forth has been taken away in this city. When the news reporters interviewed people looking at the design, the overwhelming response seemed to be “But why can’t we leave it the way it is?”
Ah, because there is a wealthy businessman offering to pay for part of this grand scheme. And because the City Council has handed the whole project over to a group of unelected businesspeople. So maybe they will pay for the rest of it, rather than us taxpayers? It is argued that the project will “revitalise” the city centre. That may be. One thing seems sure, and that is that building contracts will certainly revitalise a number of local business concerns. Let us hope that decisions are made with the highest principles in mind, rather than the profit from maximum tonnage of concrete needed to fill in the park. Or am I being cynical?