Council leads international design programme

Students from the United States have been outlining their vision for Aberdeen city centre after taking part in an innovative education programme pioneered by local authority planners.

Aberdeen City Council hosted postgraduate architecture students from University of South of Florida (USF) during a two-week visit.

Students were invited to explore the challenges and opportunities associated with North Dee – envisaged in the Council’s City Centre Masterplan as a new business quarter.

The 11 students worked in groups to develop concepts for the former fishing packing district, south of Union Square shopping centre, along with complementary uses. The North Dee area, which is a mix of privately-owned land, is already home to several businesses.

A combination of walkthroughs, presentations and workshops delivered by council officers and Aberdeen City Heritage Trust formed the basis of the “Collaborative Urban Path” programme.

The students’ ideas included re-purposing old fish houses for new business uses and building a pedestrian link over the River Dee.

There was a strong desire to improve the walkability of North Dee and to tap the “energy of the people” with features like an “artists’ alley”, pop-up markets and a skate park.

A VIEW FROM FLORIDA: Marquessa Pichette and Derek Haddox presenting their ideas to city planners

Councillor Marie Boulton, convener of the Planning Development Management Committee, said: “Collaborative Urban Path is a ground-breaking initiative that gives students the chance to work with professional planners and planners a chance to learn about the latest academic thinking.

“Aberdeen has always been international in its outlook and it was fascinating to have a different perspective on our city centre.

“At the same time, it was heartening that the emerging themes – better pedestrian linkages, making use of our heritage and natural assets – reflect some of the core thinking in the Masterplan.”

Feedback from Council officers has allowed students to further develop their plans as they embark on the second phase of programme back home in Florida.

The partnership work will also feed into the Council’s Development Framework for North Dee as well as future considerations for the site in the new Local Development Plan.

This is the fourth year of the programme involving the Council and USF.

Professor Josue Robles from USF said: “Students from the university have the occasion to work in a real professional context, asking the right questions to the right people in order to find urban design solutions for problematic issues present in a real context.

“The international character of this collaboration is the most powerful aspect and offers new points of view and different perspectives to approach local urban problems.”

Main photograpgh ( left to right): Derek Haddox (USF student), Councillor Marie Boulton, Josue Robles (Professor at USF), Georgina Gotsis (USF student), and Marquessa Pichette (USF student).