Strength, Functionality and Beauty - returning to Dundee

Dundee is a city that has evoked mixed feelings in me.  My mother was born there but left as a teenager.  For many years she would smile ruefully at 'Dundee is a great city to come from'.  That view was shared by Mike Galloway the Head of Planning for Dundee who said in December 2014 'A return to Dundee focused on an urgent need to tackle the central waterfront: “an embarrassment but a fantastic opportunity”. 

Dundee is one of the great examples of urban regeneration in Scotland and is increasing held up not merely as a model of what to do but how to do it.  As a councillor with an interest in planning and now an planner, I've been tracking the changes but hadn't taken myself for a tour - until my birthday on Sunday. 

There are no quick fixes in Dundee - no single project - but a complete approach to city planning and revitalising a city whose tendrils extend beyond urban design to facilitating business growth including spin offs from the universities.

Of course, nothing is perfect and there are controversies and difficulties but what has been achieved and what is being achieved is a superb demonstration of how a city can change. 

Before redevelopment. 
Concrete, roads and pedestrians not welcome here
I was most interested on this short trip to look at the central waterfront.  When I first visited Dundee the waterfront was only accessible from the city centre if you were willing to run the traffic gauntlet or used the foot bridge.

The dominant features were the roads - the Tay Road Bridge and the roads that served it.  And a rather ugly tower block.  And if you crossed the roads - well no-one would have called the hotel and swimming pool complex architectual delights and they each blocked off the waterfront.   

Overview of new Central Waterfront
The plans look beautiful with the Tay road bridge being contained between development rather than dominating the land. The art is to accommodate traffic withouit letting it dominate and it looks like there is a decent prospect of that. 

The new openspace will run from the Tay to the back of the Caird Hall and the new V&A museum and new railway station are strong architectural statements to the east of this sector. 
Main route continuing from Castle Street to the Tay
(east side of new open space)
The reality on the ground at present isn't great.  The sight of ripped up heaps of tarmac pleased me.  There is mess and confusion and uncomfortable routings for walkers and cyclists.   But there is a real attempt to reclaim space from the car to the benefit of people so we will need to be patient.

New housing at the Quays helps bring
vitality to the waterfront and city centre

Good things have been delivered in the Quays area to the east of the Road Bridge.  Great things are promised for the central waterfront area.  On her last visit, my mother was impressed at the changes she saw: I'm looking forward to seeing how Dundee changes next.  

Let's all hope that Vitruvius' three principle of design hold firm:  firmitas (strength), utilitas (functionality), and venustas (beauty). 

Let's build a better future. 


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