Tuesday, 11 January 2011

O I Do Like to Walk along the Prom, Prom, Prom...

Aberdeen's Beach Esplanade and Promenade was originally built in the late 19th Century and was comprehensively rebuilt by local mega-engineering civils contractor William Tawse & Son in the 1960's.

Tawse (having merged with local competitor Alexander Hall & Son to become "Hall and Tawse") today at their Northfield HQ deal in specialist joinery contracts and products; fire doors and the like. They are a subsidiary of UK contractor Mansell, itself part of multinational civil engineering giga-enterprise Balfour Beatty. Phew, so it goes.

One-time operator of both Dancing Cairns and Rubislaw Quarries and high-tech fabricator of the plutonium handling facilities at the Dounray Fast Breeder Reactor atomic power research facility in Caithness, Tawse built upon wartime experience gained building "Churchill Barriers" when executing the contract to renew, consolidate and extend Aberdeen's Beach Esplanade and Promenade.

It is interesting to note that the construction of the Churchill Barriers involved the use of prisoner-of-war forced labour. Similarly, the re-construction of Aberdeen's Esplanade involved the use of labour which was to an extent coerced, being as it was part of a public-works "workfare" programme in the 1960's - a layabout uncle of mine was forced to work on the project or lose his dole. Plus ça change.The Esplanade and Promenade - forming a road-deck, walkway, and foundation for the sand-retention groynes - stretches all the way from Futtie and the mouth of the Dee in the south to the mouth of the Don in the North and also performs the function of a sea-wall; large portions of the links to the west along with Seaton and Pittodrie actually lying below sea-level at high tide.

Road-deck, walkway, stairway to beach.
The numbered concrete slab corresponds with the sand-retention groyne. 
It's quite a structure.

Some aspects of the older parts of the structure have, um, seen better days, and a recent storm surge has covered the beach with debris and forced sand up as far as the promenade deck.

For all that, we do love the prom and, to it's northern end, we enjoy very much sitting in the concrete shelters. The concrete curl of their precast roofs and porthole detail reinforces the maritime feel. If you can find a shelter not befouled by used condoms and dogshit, take a while, sit down and enjoy a view of the bay. The design of the shelters is also an acoustic amplifier which focusses the sound of the wind and waves and seabirds.

Around the esplanade, promenade, "Fun Beach" (ugh!) and links, there's a great deal of psychogeography to be done; locations and artifacts to explore. As the season improves, we'll be back for more.


Paul Taylor said...

I hate that name, "fun beach". It must be fun, because it says so - right? Yet must of the people who go there don't even set foot on the beach...

lenathehyena said...

Enjoyed your choice photees. Pity Aberdeen cooncil has no idea how to look after something as simple as a beach and a great one at that.