Diller Scofidio + Renfro have won the Aberdeen City Garden Project design competition which seeks to transform the center of Aberdeen, Scotland. New York City-based DS+R collaborated with local Scottish architects, Keppie Design and landscape architects OLIN, on this project and emerged as winners from a head-to-head race with another finalist team led by Foster + Partners. The competition shortlist also included other international heavyweights Gustafson Porter, Mecanoo, Snøhetta & Hoskins, and West 8.
The successful proposal, popularly known as the Granite Web, celebrates the three-dimensional aspects of Aberdeen, reinterpreting the topography of the Denburn Valley and the dramatic cascade of the existing Union Terrace Gardens while creating graceful new spaces and structures that contribute to a memorable and thrilling contemporary design.
It provides additional usable garden space, a landmark cultural and arts center, and promotes the City’s historic streets, revealing the arches, vaults and bridge on Union Street and retaining the balustrades and statues which are part of Aberdeen’s legacy.
The Jury’s decision represents a breakthrough for DS+R giving them their first major European design competition win. DS+R Partner, Charles Renfro said the practice was very excited about ‘jumping across the pond’, commenting:
‘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.
‘While the City Garden is at the heart of Aberdeen, the heart has little pulse…we feel that we can make that heart throb and bring life and energy into the center of town. 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. We feel particularly well- suited to this challenge – the project reflects an integration of landscape design, museum design and design for the performing arts, the primary focuses of our practice.’
The Jury weighed information from a technical panel, face-to-face discussions with the respective teams, public and stakeholder feedback; the two finalists’ schemes being those most popular in a public exhibition held in the city in the autumn. The winning design scored higher in all key areas of the brief including, creation of more new space, cost and viability in construction and on-going maintenance, environmental sustainability and energy efficiency.
Malcolm Reading, the competition organizer, commented:
‘This is such an exciting outcome and a great coup for the city. This ingenious and inspiring design for Aberdeen’s key public space gives the city a new social landscape but one rooted in its extraordinarily rich heritage and natural assets.
‘The runner-up concept, by Foster and Partners was outstanding, elegant and thoughtful, but did not, in the end, persuade the Jury that it could match the promise of connectivity, excitement and spatial diversity of the winning scheme.’
Sir Duncan Rice, former Principal of Aberdeen University and Chair of the Jury said:
‘The Diller Scofidio team had thought long and hard about Aberdeen's special history and unique needs. Answer by answer, they overwhelmed the jury with their vision and their sensitivity to the whole downtown context. They are flexible and responsive, and the thrilling concept they have offered will continue to adapt and evolve as discussion proceeds. I'm proud that our city has been able to attract a team which combines distinction, creativity and urban experience.’
Charles Landry, author of The Creative City and a member of the Jury added:
‘This is a design that can act as the catalyst to regenerate the whole of Aberdeen’s city center with significant economic impacts for the entire city. Truly inspiring, it can put Aberdeen onto the global radar screen - very, very few designs can do this. In time it will be surely loved by locals and visitors alike. Without this type of transformational change, Aberdeen will struggle to meet the challenges it will inevitably face in the future.’
John Stewart, Chairman of the City Garden Project management board said:
‘We promised the public we would deliver an exceptional design and then produce a detailed economic assessment. This will be announced shortly so that the public know what the project could look like, how it will be funded and the economic benefits it will bring before making their decision in the referendum.’
Check also the image gallery below to see the projects of the five shortlisted teams led by Foster + Partners, Gustafson Porter, Mecanoo, Snøhetta & Hoskins, and West 8.