Aberdeen City Garden project

The Aberdeen City Garden Project arose out of the city’s need to re-invent itself. As revenues from North Sea oil and gas diminish, this eminent Scottish city has to find new ways to use its expertise and regenerate its economy.

Among its assets is a key city centre site which has great potential but which has been under-used, suffering from changes in level, poor access and circulation.

Malcolm Reading Consultants was appointed in December 2010 to run an international competition to transform the physical space but also create a ‘buzz’ about the city.

We drew up the brief for this £140 million project, which included improving accessibility, creating new gardens, a civic space for outdoor events and a new cultural centre. MRC advertised the competition on a dedicated microsite and it attracted world-wide interest and a longlist of 55 entries. Six teams were selected to go forward to the second stage to develop concept-designed schemes. Subsequently two finalists, Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Foster + Partners were invited to present further work on concept, costs and viability.

The successful proposal by US firm DS+R (with Scottish architects Keppie Design and landscape architects, OLIN), is popularly known as the Granite Web and attracted unprecedented press coverage. The design celebrates the three-dimensional aspects of Aberdeen while creating graceful new spaces and structures that contribute to a memorable and thrilling design. For DS+R, famed for the award-winning High Line project in New York, the commission represents their first major project in Europe. Partner, Charles Renfro commented:

‘The competition was run with the utmost professionalism. It showed much insight and foresight on the competition organizer’s part to insist on a run-off between the two leading designs even though this was not anticipated from the beginning.

Because of this, our design has become much more refined and reflects input from the client group as well as the public. It is rare for such inputs to be introduced into a competition, but the city of Aberdeen will ultimately be the winner from such a thorough process.’

Project details

The shortlist:
Diller Scofidio and Renfro
Foster + Partners
Snøhetta
Gustafson Porter
Mecanoo Architecten
West 8
Won by:
Diller Scofidio and Renfro
Project value:
£140m