Union Terrace Gardens re-opens to the public

Union Terrace Gardens

Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens, one of the UK’s most important park regenerations, has re-opened following a £28million refurbishment.

The Victorian heritage of the Gardens has been restored and enhanced, including the ‘grand staircase’ into the lower Gardens, the historic Union Terrace Arcade Arches, and three statues.

Aberdeen City Council commissioned LDA Design to reunite the city behind a new design that would respect the unique charm and character of the Gardens, ringed by some of the city’s finest streets. Both masterplan proposals and detailed design drew heavily on extensive public consultation.

Union Terrace Gardens

The Gardens cover approximately two and a half acres in a small river valley with a Victorian viaduct in the centre of Aberdeen. They opened in 1878 when the ‘bleaching greens’ next to the railway line were given to the people as a pleasure ground by the Council.

The regeneration of the Gardens has enhanced access, amenity, and activity. They now provide wheelchair-friendly routes and lift access. Three new pavilions, designed to house cafés, restaurants or arts and cultural spaces, will ensure the space is activated throughout the day and evening. One pavilion provides access to splendid refurbished Victorian toilets.

Union Terrace Gardens
Union Terrace Gardens
Union Terrace Gardens

There are specially commissioned artworks, a water feature, and new native planting. New amenities include a play area for children, generous seating, and a bespoke lighting design.

Union Terrace Gardens

There is a net gain in planting and biodiversity and the Gardens now have more trees, including new horizon elms which are resistant to Dutch Elm disease.

LDA Design Director, Kirstin Taylor, says that Union Terrace Gardens has again become the green heart for the city. “The Gardens are now an inclusive and dynamic space that will serve generations to come. Their restoration delivers on a city centre masterplan which is designed to invigorate the immediate area, because now they provide a safe and sociable all-year-round destination with broad appeal. This will also encourage more walking and cycling.”

The central lawn has been retained as a flexible space for large-scale gatherings and events. The Gardens will host the city’s Festival of Light in February, and the lawn will be turfed once the festival has ended.

LDA Design led a project team that included Balfour Beatty, Ashlea Landscapes, Arup, Stallan Brand, Ryden, McLeod and Aitken.

Photography: Christopher Swan / LDA Design

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Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/damianholmes/