Architecture students share radical vision for Union Street

Final year architecture students at Robert Gordon University (RGU) have unveiled a huge 3D model which reflects their dramatic regeneration ideas for Aberdeen’s Union Street.

Architecture students group shotPedestrianisation, the reintroduction of trams, removal of Aberdeen Indoor Market and the Trinity Centre, better connectivity with the harbour, the introduction of a new ferry port and the relocation of major oil companies into the Castlegate are just some of the ideas which have been brought to life through the nine metre model, which takes centre stage in the End of Year Show at the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment.

Other proposals include the replacement of St Nicholas House with high quality multi-purpose buildings, the creation of a plaza in front of Marishal College and a new Peacocks Art Centre next to the Music Hall.

The two-year project, based around the theme of ‘The Future of the High Street’, saw the students create a model of Union Street as it looks now, before redeveloping it to address key questions such as what they believe could be done to revitalise the street, what identity it should have in future years and how to improve its connectivity to the spaces around and below it.

The students created a strategic plan for the street which proposes the removal of traffic, a pedestrian focused boulevard and increased inhabitation of the street through the addition of housing.

Student Tracey Irvine (23) concentrated on examining how better connectivity could be introduced to Union Street and has proposed that Aberdeen Indoor Market be removed to enable the creation of a specialist outdoor market which focuses on the high quality food and drink produced in the north-east.

She said: “Aberdeen’s first indoor market in the Green was designed by Archibald Simpson in 1882, and played the role of a social hub. Unfortunately, it was destroyed 40 years later and the significance of the current indoor market, which was built in 1971, has diminished. The specialist retailers such as bakers, butchers and fishmongers are gone and have been replaced with small ‘bric-a-brac’ stalls due to low rent opportunities.”

Trinity Centre - Student designTracey continued: “Public space shapes the cities we inhabit, and can enhance the experiences people have within the city. It is those areas which belong to everybody and everybody ought to have equal access to them. These are also the spaces which we pass through on our daily journeys, and the spaces we use for social interaction and relaxation.

“This project not only provides an urban space for social interaction, but also makes a crucial move to improve the connectivity to Union Street itself, by improving the shopping journey between the main shopping centres.”

Similarly, Bruce Kinmond (23), has outlined a plan which would see the Trinity Centre disappear from Aberdeen’s cityscape and be replaced with high-quality mixed use buildings featuring commercial units on the lower level and flats on the upper floors.

“The removal of the Trinity Centre offers the opportunity to provide direct visual and physical pedestrian links from Union Street to surrounding infrastructure such as Union Square and Aberdeen Rail Station,” he said. “This would reveal the true typography of the Denburn valley which once ran through the heart of Aberdeen’s Union Street and reinstate the bridge as a recognisable focal point.”

He added: “It would also provide an opportunity to extend the green space from Union Terrace Gardens, creating a tranquil environment in the heart of the city centre."

Looking at opportunities for densification on and behind the street, as well as how best to make use of existing buildings, Hollie Shepherd (24), said: “While Union Street has a number of impressive buildings, it is blighted by a lack of residential development and interconnected public spaces.

Densification - Student design“There are a number of late 19th century public buildings lying unused and crying out for sensitive and appropriate development. By adapting these spaces for domestic purposes it would create an injection of residents which will enhance the current situation and return Union Street to the vibrant and lucrative High Street it once was.”

The project has been led by Professor Gokay Deveci, who said: “I believe that the School of Architecture and Built Environment should work closely with local communities to develop meaningful dialogues when it comes to creating a cohesive vision for the future of our city.

“The rationale behind the Union Street project was to address the issues which are currently affecting the street through a research-based and holistic investigation. I would urge people to come and view the model during the show and let us know what they think of the ideas the students have put forward.”

The unveiling of the model follows on from a report written by RGU experts spanning retail, tourism, transport, architecture and sustainability in March this year, entitled ‘Aberdeen – a vision for a thriving and vibrant city centre’.

The model is currently on display as part of the school’s End of Year show, which runs until Friday, July 12. It includes a range of work from students in stages one to six of the Degree and Masters courses and guided tours will be available to visitors on Wednesday, July 3, and Wednesday, July 10, at 2pm.

For more information on the End of Year Show, visit

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Jenny RushCommunications Officer | Design and Technology