International search for a design team to transform Aberdeen city centre launched

An international competition to select a team to design a major new public space and gardens in the heart of Aberdeen has been launched today.

The design competition is being managed by Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC) and has a dedicated competition website at

The competition brief proposes a radical transformation of a key part of central Aberdeen adjacent to the historic spine of Union Street. It will raise the inaccessible, under-used Union Terrace Gardens and cover-over the unattractive Denburn dual carriageway and nearby railway line.

The project aims to improve street level access from areas of the city that are at present cut-off, to create new green gardens and landscaping, a civic space for outdoor events, a new cultural centre, a café quarter, new links with bus and railway stations, as well as a new spatial relationship with the Green and Union Square.

The competition, which is open to competitors until June 13 2011, seeks a design-led team. This should include an urban designer, architect, structural, civil and services engineering, landscape architect and a cost consultant.
Malcolm Reading, who previously ran the competitions for the V&A’s Exhibition Road site, the British Pavilion for Shanghai World Expo 2010 and Glasgow School of Art, commented:

“This a rare opportunity to re-design the centre of this eminent city, creating sparkling green public spaces and new routes, connecting areas that have become detached, and providing a place for fun outdoor events and exciting new cultural buildings.

“This is a chance for any designer, passionate about cities and how to make them inspiring and alive, to make their name and reputation.”
MRC is known for using the strategy of selection of a design-team rather than a finished design. This approach, which has been successfully implemented on a number of high-profile competitions, is more likely to lead to an integrated solution where architecture, landscape, structure and services are considered holistically.

The competition is a two-stage contest. The first stage is aimed at attracting technically competent and professional teams from all over the world to register their interest in the project.

A shortlist of five to seven of the best teams will be selected to move to stage two.

The shortlisted teams will be briefed and asked to produce a concept design (for which an honorarium will be paid). These will be reviewed by a technical panel and a final jury will conduct interviews prior to a winner being announced. A public exhibition of the shortlisted teams will be held prior to the jury meeting.

The shortlist will be announced in the week beginning July 20 2011 and the winning team announced in mid- December 2011.

The City Garden Project will cost around £140 million. It is anticipated that half the money will come from the private sector and half from the funding mechanism known as Tax Incremental Finance.

In November 2008, businessman and philanthropist Sir Ian Wood announced that he would pledge £50 million towards a transformational scheme to redevelop Union Terrace Gardens and the Denburn Valley. A number of schemes have been considered by the city before but have failed due to a lack of private sector funding.

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