As radical pedestrians and utility cyclists, naturally, this is exactly the sort of thing we want to hear. This weekend, the taste of exhaust pollution in the centre of Aberdeen was quite disgusting, the noise-stress was unbearable and the vast majority of people (pedestrians) were, as usual, crammed into their tiny pavement allocation by the car drivers who use the space allocated to them on our town centre's roads to the exclusion of all other potential utility that might be gained from that precious urban space.
A radical daydream creeps into our consciousness, a vision of a pleasant city centre which is proud to display both its heritage and its faith in the future. One of the major arguments put forward by those who want to redevelop Union Terrace Gardens is the fact that they are 'poorly utilised'. Well, we're not sure that a city park loses utility when unoccupied by people - it continues to provide ecological services; oxygen generation, urban wildlife habitat, sound baffling and the like - but, what's good for the goose is good for the gander, and it has been pointed out elsewhere that the Denburn urban dual carriageway is, likewise, 'poorly utilised'.
|A woefully underused urban asset.|
No pavements. WTF?
Another argument for decking over the Denburn valley is to conceal the unsightly urban motorway. But, wait a minute - why conceal something which is barely used? Why not just do away with it? Keeping such a big road seems a bit, em, short sighted when private petrol vehicles are to be banned from town centres in less than 40 years time. We say dig it up and lay turf. We say plough it up and plant trees. A small service road on the woonerf model could be retained for emergency vehicles and utility services, but, most of the time it would be used by pedestrians for pleasant sunlit walks in the serene and valley. Maybe the Denburn itself could run in the open once more.
A further argument put forward for decking over the Denburn valley is that the current gardens are often shaded - and this is true in the evenings. With our new plan to turn the existing dual carrageway into a new contemporary garden, the Denburn Valley Gardens (if you will) would encompass both east and west slopes of the valley, so some part of the gardens would always be in direct sunlight. The existing Victorian gardens would be fully retained at practically no cost, and when the sunlight moves off them, garden users can cross over to new, modern gardens on the east bank, terracing down from Belmont Street, accessed by footbridges over the railway line which itself would be retained lending scenographic drama to our showpiece city centre and displaying the latest tilting train TGV technology.
One of the intentions of the European Commission's policy is to move half of journeys under 200 miles onto rail. Retaining sight of the railway (and, perhaps, new platforms for passenger embarkation) would display the fact that rail travel is at the heart of our city's vision of the future - not the dead-end car-dependent motorcentric vision which today predominates to the detriment of our environment.
And so our radical daydream turns into achievable vision. We're not joking. This is now our stated vision for Union Terrace Gardens and the Denburn Valley, including Upper Denburn (you'll be hearing a lot more about Upper Denburn over the next few years - you heard it here first!).
It would look a little bit like this original human-scale vision for the valley, with greensward and gardens on both sides, a tiny Denburn Road woonerf full of dawdling pedestrians and the latest high-tech railway on display:
We'll be examining this radical new proposal in a bit more detail over the coming weeks with site-visits and the like. We'll do this in comparison with similar projects which have been delivered elsewhere, such as Cheonggyecheon Park in Seoul:
|This is more-or-less exactly what we have in mind.|
|The "High Line" regenerated a disused railway viaduct.|
At Denburn, we will turn a disused dual carriageway into a park.
We will also look at our new woonerf proposal in the context of the City Gardens Project "Turning Vision Into Reality" presentation material (particularly that provided by Charles Landry), which we believe supports our vision for high-liveability, human scale, mixed use, walkable places of refuge and tranquility, where creativity can flourish.
Here are some of Charles Landry's slides, as presented to ACSEF and as available to download from the City Gardens Project website:
|High-liveability - Mixed use - Places of refuge|
|Human scale - Walkability|
|Comforting to read this.|