Design Brief for City Garden Unveiled

Contemporary 21st century garden with excellent landscape design sought.

The City Garden Project management board and Malcolm Reading Consultants have finalised the design brief for the second stage of the international design competition.

The competition is seeking world-class, innovative but deliverable designs for an urban park and civic space that will successfully sit within Aberdeen’s heritage and historic architecture to create a contemporary public place for the 21st century and beyond.

The brief sets out the aims behind the project and draws together technical information from previous studies, incorporating the priorities of the design quality workshops, stakeholder interviews and feedback from the public consultation carried out last year.

The design quality workshop has indicated that the gardens should enhance Aberdeen’s reputation as an international city, be widely acclaimed for their quality and conveniently accessible.

The brief recognises the policy objectives for public space, well-being and transport endorsed by Aberdeen City and Shire. The brief is structured around three main sections: the wider planning context, the key design principles and criteria; and the ambitions. The successful design teams will need to demonstrate that their proposal satisfies these and the quality standards of distinct identity, creating a safe and pleasant environment, easy to move around, welcoming, adaptable and sustainable.

Malcolm Reading said: “The designs must be based on the principles of effective place-making, respect for the historic environment, use of the topography and landscape, connectivity, accessibility, enhancement of the cultural quarter and social, environmental and economic sustainability.

“Equally, designers need to be conscious of Aberdeen’s aim to create a city of vitality and quality, using projects such as City Garden to set a new benchmark of civic vigour. I have complete confidence that the shortlist we choose from the entries to the first stage are capable of meeting these challenges with flair, maturity and creativity.”

The feasibility study, completed in 2009, found that accommodation could be provided over four levels on the site with a total area of 56,000 square metres with 29,000 square metres at street level. The design teams should aim to achieve this area or more, but should not be constrained by the layout proposed in the feasibility study.

Gardens must account for a minimum of 11,000 square metres (equivalent to the existing gardens). A contemporary 21st century garden which demonstrates excellence in landscape design is sought.

The cultural centre must have a significant entrance, capable of handling up to 2,000 visitors per day with the ability to form a semi-sheltered space for performances. The aim is to attract a major arts partner to locate to the site and as such the design for a cultural centre will be conceptual at this stage.

The outdoor performance space should be able to cater for a range of events from small scale poetry reading to gatherings for 5,000 people. The space must be able to adapt for concerts for up to 10,000 people.

The scheme should provide access to the rail and bus station, Union Square, Trinity Mall and the Green. Consideration should also be given to the potential of linking the businesses on Union Terrace via the arches under the road. The aspiration is for the gardens to provide a link to buildings at the rear of Belmont Street to enable businesses to expand cafes and restaurants into the scheme.

A flexible area for performing arts, conferences, exhibitions, meetings and other events with back-of-house facilities should be catered for in the concourse area.

Car parking should be sufficient to service the site but not be seen as a new city-wide facility. Delivery and loading bays for His Majesty’s Theatre and for the new cultural centre should be provided.

The designs must demonstrate that they will not exceed the budget of £140 million.

Mr Reading added: “The design brief underlines that the site must be primarily a garden, a public space for Aberdeen. There will be no intrusive buildings on the garden to prevent the vistas from Rosemount Viaduct to the south to Union Street and Union Street Bridge to the north. The topography of the site is paramount. The bridges over Rosemount Viaduct and Union Street reveal the historic development of the city and should be embraced. There are many listed structures bordering and close to the site which need to be exploited by a new proposal to give the gardens a distinct character and identity.

“Designs should celebrate the concept of the Victorian Gardens and include formal gardens but should reinterpret the idea for a 21st century city. The landscape should include distinct areas united through a garden space and consideration must be given to quieter areas for contemplation and relaxation as well as to other more dynamic areas. The scheme will need to be sympathetic to Aberdeen’s climate, providing shelter from the wind and using plants which will thrive. We are also seeking mature trees in the proposals with details of how they can be sustained.”

The design brief will be issued to the next Aberdeen City Council meeting and then issued to the short-listed design teams on 21st of July 2011 with supporting technical information.

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