Resilient Towns and Cities:
Masters in Architecture with Prof. Gokay Deveci
Lecturers: Bill Black, David Vardy
Scott Sutherland School represents the most northerly provider of Architecture education in the UK. The school’s location represents a uniquely diverse portfolio encompassing urban and suburban, planned estates, villages and towns, managed landscapes and wilderness, marine and land-based industry, and coastal towns.
These rich and varied built and landscape contexts of the North-East of Scotland offers the conditions for a distinctive learning experience for students, including the pertinent issues and activity within the local and regional community. Our unit were involved in looking at a range of possible futures to enable the occupants of a small town and city to be able to influence the form and social wellbeing of their place as it develops. The aim of the unit was to explore by design possible ways that these towns and cities could develop and become a ‘resilient’
This year, stage 6 concluded their study of Peterhead, its town centre and surrounding harbour. Situated on a rocky headland with a large bay to the south, Peterhead’s history is inexorably linked with the sea. Peterhead, an historic coastal town in Aberdeenshire, is a town facing threats and opportunities common to many small towns across the UK. Located along the north-east of Scotland, the town has a population of 18,000 and has enjoyed a relatively prosperous past. Peterhead is Aberdeenshire’s largest settlement. It has a relatively diverse economy, including food processing, textiles, service industries and, importantly, fishing. Peterhead first grew as a fishing port and became the largest white fish port in Europe. Although the industry is in decline, it is still important to the town. In recent times, however, Peterhead, has suffered from several high profile company closures and are facing a number of pressures, including Common Fisheries Policy reforms. Peterhead will continue to experience social, cultural and environmental pressures but it is how they change and adapt to these changes that will make them successful places. Towns, especially coastal towns such as Peterhead, have a special social, cultural and economical significance in Scotland and to the North East. Despite the importance of these towns, there has been limited work investigating their current state or their future development to ensure their resilience.
Similarly, stage 5 focused on Aberdeen city and investigated possible scenarios for tackling the growing problems high street. Aberdeen has in the past shown great ambition, not least when they drove Union Street from East to West through and over an undulating medieval city. Their ambition was sufficient to drive the council into near bankruptcy but they left a legacy which has defined the town centre ever since, however, recent developments of shopping centres have forced the city into a North-South axis. Central Aberdeen’s urban morphology is currently dominated by the neo-classical Union Street, which was laid out east-west from Castlegate subsuming the mediaeval settlement and natural topography as it extended across Union Terrace Gardens towards the Victorian west end and the suburbs. berdeen as a city has yet to be explored by many as most people experience their life in the city in two dimensions, getting from point A to point B without the knowledge of the multiple layers of the city. By going below, or above, the city can offer new possibilities for connections and a new public realm in places that have been practically unvisited by most in the city.
What do we want Aberdeen to be in 25 years? What identity should it have? What needs to happen to ensure that the centre remains a prime space in the city? How do we incorporate ‘next housing’ typologies and what other uses must be introduced to make the street work? What civic or cultural focus should the street have? How does Aberdeen connect to spaces and places around, below and above? These are but a few of the questions that will be asked though the project, both group work and individual proposals.
The central focus for both groups was ‘resilience’. The term resilience refers to something positive; the ability to withstand hardship and disturbance, and recover from disaster and destruction. In the future, it is important to be cautious enough to prepare for the unforeseen and deal with risks in an appropriate way. The principal challenge for this Unit was to explore the meaning of ‘resilience’ which can interpret and respond to contemporary social, cultural and technological trends. Every city and town, like Aberdeen and Peterhead, are affected by trends of transformation, but it is how these cities and towns adapt which will determine whether they stay relevant and successful.
By researching and identifying the current pressures on these coastal towns and cities, the unit developed design strategies and methodologies to help create urban mixed-developments and new typologies to meet the future challenges. These future challenges are related to issues such as employment, ageing, density, mixed-development, population decline or expansion, migration, food communication, transport, renewable energy and other ever changing social, cultural, economic and political agendas.
The outcome for our study, as a group, was be to develop a strategic plan which tries to generate a more resilient future for both Peterhead and Aberdeen, and create opportunities for contemporary, regionally distinctive architecture, landscape and infrastructure.
The outcome for our study aims to create a catalyst for discussion and debate, both in an architectural environment and the wider community. The research focuses on topical themes, such as the decline of towns and cities in Scotland, with the view that this research and proposals produced can create an engagement with local authorities for the public interest.