'Granite Web' competition entry wins fierce battle for Aberdeen public space
The architects behind New York’s treasured High Line have secured their next public space project, this time in Aberdeen, Scotland. Nicknamed the ‘Granite Web’, Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) and Keppie's victorious concept reinterprets the existing topography of the Denburn Valley and cascading greenery of the Union Terrace Gardens in the heart of the Scottish city. Supporting the new green public space will be a cultural and arts centre, drawing locals and tourists into the leafy parkland.
Competition was high for this catalyst project, with the contest extended as DS+R/Keppie went head to head with international firm Foster + Partners in the final stages. Charles Renfro, Partner at DS+R, admitted that pitching against such an impressive practice pushed his firm to design bigger and better: “The steep competition drove us that much harder to do more research, to understand the site more thoroughly, to dig deeper into our creative reserve and our technical expertise to find a daring, thoughtful and beautiful solution.”
It was this considered understanding of the site context that hit a real note with the judges, as they applauded the elements of connectivity, excitement and spatial diversity displayed in DS+R/Keppie’s winning scheme. The concept promotes Aberdeen’s historic streets, revealing the arches, vaults and bridge on Union Street and retaining the balustrades and statues which are part of the city’s legacy. Colourful renderings show a sunken performance space in the heart of the park over which a thick network of fronds arches in a smooth pedestrian system.
Renfro continues: “By making the park greener, more accommodating to passive and active uses, more engaged at its edges, the gardens can become a magnet for this otherwise youthful and energetic city.” Charles Landry, author of The Creative City and a member of the Jury detailed: “This is a design that can act as the catalyst to regenerate the whole of Aberdeen’s city centre with significant economic impacts for the entire city. Without this type of transformational change, Aberdeen will struggle to meet the challenges it will inevitably face in the future.”