Monday, 10 January 2011

College Street Multi Storey Car-Park.

Starting the new year with much in common with the way we blogged towards the end of the old, we paid a couple of visits to the other multi-storey car-park associated with Union Square; the College Street Multi Storey Car Park.

An interesting high quality modernist red-brick brick structure, the car park contrasts with the prevailing silver-grey which is usually regarded as characteristic of Aberdeen.  From the car park, [trainspotter alert] there's a great view of the arch viaduct which brings the railway from the south to Aberdeen and the Clayhills Engineering Works where passenger rolling stock is serviced.

From here, the rails extend south across the sea to join a network
which is uninterrupted from Vladivostok in the east to Lisbon in the west

And, surprise surprise! As ever when we visit the top-deck of an Aberdeen multi-storey car-park, we find a haven of peace and space. But don't just take our word for it, fellow psychogeographer of Aberdeen Lewis Dryburgh has shot this fantastic Ambient Video of the top-deck at South College Street. Enjoy:

Lovely. Do have a look at Lewis' other Ambient Videos on YouTube.

On one of our visits there was still a bit of snow about. And one solitary parked car, the red of its bodywork making a thrilling contrast with the blue-white day.

That single red highlight draws the eye -  making an almost martial statement, a bit like the little red dot on the black barrel of a Baretta Parabellum automatic, which shows that the safety catch is off. This red flash, we thought, by contrasting with the rest of the scene, merely serves to highlight the peaceful desertion which the College Street Car Park can offer.

Serene and paradoxically secluded in the open air in the centre of the town; calm on the top-deck as the life of the town bustles around the foot of the building, once again we find ourselves wanting to urge those in charge of these spaces to consider acknowledging their value as urban oases. Please - a couple of picnic benches, some container planting, a coffee vendor and Bob's yer uncle! A park! Sort of.

Indeed the South College Street Car Park was once used by some Aberdonians as urban open social space for leisure and sport. A blog commenter "Sam" emailed to let us know that he shared our fascination in urban multi-storey car parks having this potential duality. He also told us about what was know as the "BT Comp".

College street or 'BT car park' as it was more commonly known was used for a long time in the Aberdeen skateboarding scene. Its rather strange that a car park can have a sort of alter existence or meaning. It was a standard car park by day but after 6pm when the attendants sulked off from work it became a social space for all skateboarders from across the city. Well, skateboarders and junkies who would inhabit the very bottom floor and the upper stairwells at night.
College street car park was also used annually for a number of years to play host to the BT comp. A one night only skateboard competition which would attract hundreds of people to congregate on the top floor to bear witness to an organized competition. Mayhem would be a good description. unfortunately though, as skateboarding became more popular generally a lot more kids would turn up and abuse the event which started to lead up to the end of the car park days. During the last comp a teenager fell to his death from the very top, im not sure of the story but from what i heard at the time they were larking about and being rather irresponsible by mucking around at the top ledge.
The introduction of Union square would also lead to more focus by the council on the use of College street car park. I think that the top floor also became part owned by an oil company so the employees would have a guaranteed car space. This meant 24 hour security which as you can imagine wouldn't take too kindly to the space being used by skateboarders and the like.
Many thanks for the information Sam - we really appreciate it! Sam also gave us a link to some footage shot at one of the BT Comps. Brilliant!

And, on a more downbeat note and with our sympathy to friends and relatives, here's a link to the BBC report of the tragic accident.

Well, all that sort of behaviour's over and done with now, and public use of the car-park is subject to published and displayed Terms and Conditions imposed by the management of Union Square, who now operate the car park.

We find the trumpeting of the use of number-plate recognition technology to be a highly sinister development. Not content with operating blanket surveillance upon us, non-governmental private operators have now taken it upon themselves to operate artificial-intelligence based tracking technology. Nice. We also note that they say:
"Records of vehicle registration numbers ... and images of vehicles and their drivers ... will be kept"
Which, in our opinion is totally unacceptable behaviour by a private organisation. That this impressive technology has been wrangled into a system used to extort parking fees from compliant consumers who have willingly traded their privacy for a dubious and short-lived convenience we find depressingly apt. It tells us a great deal.

Regular readers will know that we have had more than one  encounter with the people who are empowered to operate this surveillance and tracking technology at this site and at others. Our experience has caused us concern that the levels of skill, training and personal attributes demonstrated by these operators are not necessarily up to the standard which reasonable people might expect would be a minimum requirement for those charged with such onerous responsibilities. Still, number plate recognition robot systems overseen by teenagers less intelligent than the software they operate needn't trouble us pedestrians just yet and facial recognition software is still a good eighteen months away from being "productized" and we have not yet been "chipped". Not to our knowledge, at least.

We also noticed that the display sign T&C's point to the fact that further "Full terms and conditions are available" online (pdf). So we had a look at that too. We liked this bit:
The company has the right to exclusion rights in relation to persons who are causing ... unruly behaviour or misbehaving in any way and additionally in relation to persons who have no cause to be present on the car parking premises.
That'll be us, then. Because we came on foot.


John Aberdein said...

Thatcher claimed a similar 'right to exclusion rights' round the Falklands, and then ordered the sinking of the 'Belgrano' even though it was sailing away from the exclusion zone.

What if we set up a mass test case, bought parking tickets, stuck them on our foreheads, and stood on one bay each for two hours, with our NI numbers on neck-placards?

Probably still get torpedoed...

Like the idea of 'a couple of picnic benches, some container planting, a coffee vendor'.

Anonymous said...

Great piece Alan, thanks for the mention.

I actually saw in the New Year on top of College Street car park - quite impressive with the chorus of horns from the harbour and the fireworks from Union Terrace Gardens.

Speaking of which, I'm baffled that the Council are willing to spend £100+m to develop UTG into what is essentially a wide open concrete square when we've already got three fantastic wide open concrete spaces in the form of College Street, Union Square Car Park and Loch Street, all painfully underused and which have far superior views than UTG ever will.

By the nature of their design multi-storeys only really reach capacity at the weekend or at Christmas, so they're perfectly capable of a secondary function. I've come across some great examples of this - in London there's a 10th floor car park roof in Peckham which is home to 'Frank's Café and Campari Bar' during the summer months; Selfridges have been known to hold vintage clothes sales and charity auctions in their multi storey car park and in Ann Arbor Michigan, a central multi-storey car park is periodically transformed into a drive in movie theatre.

Heartbreaking that Aberdonians can't even visit their own car park roofs without the fear of getting a bollocking and being detained.

It's important for the hard done by Car Park Roof Explorer to remember that you're not breaking any trespass laws as long as you A) Don't cause any damage. B) Don't 'lodge' and C) Leave when asked (though you can return straight away).

Upset a little by B as I quite fancy a sleep over.

Jaberdeen said...

The guy that fell was well known in Aberdeen, a real character. He was dangling off the ledge but couldn't hang on as he had nerve damage in his arm from a previous incident. Very sad. His name was Sean Mcgee. I think a plaque would be nice.

forum discussing it:

I love what you are doing with this site too. Thanks