Aberdeen + oil

Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Aberdeen City Garden, Aberdeen 2012

So, Aberdeen, population 200,000, oil capital of Scotland, is preparing for the end of North Sea oil extraction within the next 20 years.  

A recent and controversial project, Diller Scofidio+Renfro's transformation of Union Terrace Gardens (sponsored locally and privately, not publicly) will build the 'green heart of the silver city', a reference to the silvery granite of which Aberdeen is built. Ultimately it is the privatisation of a public amenity and has been protested muchly, but has recently narrowly been approved in a referendum.  Renamed Aberdeen City Garden, all is explained on its website.  It is undoubtedly very beautiful, a topographic landscape/building, all angles and shifting ground planes.  The images show hordes of people engaged in vigourous public mingling.  

Daniel Jauslin has written a review of the project in Topos, pulling out all its many architectural and historical references.  

Because I've been looking at Calgary recently, I'm struck more by the desire of oil cities to raise their ante with very expensive internationally-designed projects, whoever they are funded by, for their public spaces.  Having just gone through five decades of drawings of Calgary plazas full of the same people as are shown wandering through this new Aberdeen landscape, I do wonder if the driven lives lived in oil cities envision evenings of strolling about in lovely parks instead of coming home from work and then working on all evening till they crash into bed.

This is nothing to do with the actual designs, other than the experience of a city that when oil is booming, has little time for leisure, and when it isn't, is very depressed.  Very sobering these days are the images of all the near-abandoned buildings for the 2004 Olympics in Greece: nothing to do with the quality of their architecture, which was pretty stunning as I recall, and everything to do with economic  collapse, whether civic or personal, unexpected or planned for.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Aberdeen City Garden,Aberdeen 2012