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Old April 21st, 2006, 02:12 AM   #1
mediadave
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Developments in Dundee

Not much is said of Dundee that I've seen, but it is the forth city of Scotland (admittedly after the first two its a pretty big drop off!) and there are a lot of projects planned and being built.
The Dundee we know and 'love' is a product of the sixties and seventies, and like many cities in that era was afflicted with the planning mistakes only the sixties seem to be able to produce. The city was cut off from the river by motorways, many fine old buildings were demolished (including the symbol of Dundee, the Victoria arch) and in their palce was built a string of concrete commieblocks. One of my friends has refered to Dundee as a hill covered in concrete... I wouldn't go that far, and there are many fine neighbourhoods and buildings in Dundee (I might do a photo tour of Dundee at somepoint) but it isn't as nice as it could be.




But wait! What's this? why, its Frank Gehry, riding to the rescue. he designed a Maggies cancer centre, and it seems to have inspired something in Dundee council.



As they soon after that was built produced a Waterfront development masterplan, to include a central building planned by Gehry. They plan to demolish many of the sixties monoliths, redivert the motorways away from the city centre, and extend the centre down to the river. http://www.dundeecity.gov.uk/publica...waterfront.pdf

Unfortunately I can't seem to link or indeed find any photos of the masterplan, they're in that link.

And then Dundee University, midway through a £200 million redevelopment of its own, has proposed to build a giant naked woman.

pics of a nine foot model of the 90ft statue


so hopefully the future for dundee is a bit brighter than the dull grey of commieblocks...

Last edited by mediadave; April 21st, 2006 at 02:25 AM.
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Old April 22nd, 2006, 09:51 AM   #2
Vladimir V L
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Pity the people actually living in the 'commie' blocks are opposing these vast demolition plans. The capiblocks Ive seen so far in Dundee are even worse than the 60's variety, theres a cracker down at the port that looks like its covered in rusty metal, 'amazing' or 'vibrant' take your pick. Dundee is depressing as hell, but its not the high rises that do it (you only have about 15 for gods sake, and you can only see a handful from the city centre, most of which look OK, with the exception of the white stained ones perhaps!.

It must feel comfortable these days to blame everything on the 60's, they do the same in Glasgow daily. I never stop hearing people whinge about it. The ringroad makes it ugly yes. The waterfront, I agree. Even the thousands of 15 year old girls pushing prams. But to me the worst thing is the acres of boarded up buildings all over the city, factories, offices even supermarkets (good grief!). Yep, Dundee loves it wooden boards all right, it makes Glasgow look like an amateur. How many of the 'commie' blocks DO have boards all over them?

Its not architecture that does it folks. Its economics. And by the way, the word 'commie' never came into Scottish economics, try 'flexible' if you want to see the true killer of places like Dundee...

'Commieblocks'

Last edited by Vladimir V L; April 22nd, 2006 at 09:59 AM.
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Old April 22nd, 2006, 11:22 AM   #3
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I was impressed with what they did with the Shopping centre near the Church, bit like a prerunner of Birmingham Bull Ring.

Is Groucho's still going?

edited to add:



!!!!

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Old April 22nd, 2006, 12:00 PM   #4
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I have only visited Dundee once last year for the Celtic film and TV festival but I was quite impressed by the place. It seemed to have a great buzz about it and a thriving arts scene.
I remember really liking the new shopping centre and the new arts centre/cinema is a great building. It could be a great town if the main road into the town was removed from the waterfront and some exciting new builds such as another Ghery and that 90ft woman were given the go ahead.
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Old April 22nd, 2006, 12:49 PM   #5
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My first visit to Dundee was in 1974 whilst I was staying in Forfar. I remember being impressed each time I drove into the city by the appearance of Victoria Road - a fine metropolitan street bustling with shops, cinema, imposing warehouses etc. Certainly a fine approach to the city. I visited again in 1992 only to see about half of it had been demolished and more since on checking on Google Earth. I found some old black and white photos on the City Council website and just as I remembered it certainly was a magnificent thorofare.
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Old April 23rd, 2006, 04:42 AM   #6
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well, commieblocks seems to be the forum's word for those buildings, and I have to say it seems to fit.

groucho's is still going, and is still the best record shop I've seen. and the pheonix is still the best pub.

The Overgate (the shopping centre built around St Mary's) is a great development, and the whole city Centre is actually really nice, with some great eclectic buildings.






it doesn't seem to have come across in my first post, but actually, I really like Dundee, and am always defending it in arguments (ie, with the guy who called it a hill covered in concrete) but i do recognise it was, and could be, nicer. As for the sixties, i will never forgive them for demolishing the Victoria Arch to build the roadbridge.


Last edited by mediadave; April 23rd, 2006 at 04:54 AM.
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Old April 24th, 2006, 05:42 PM   #7
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My mother and gran were from Dundee so I know it well. The Tay Road Bridge is under-rated, plus Reform Street and surrounding area are very good. Anyone got old pics of Victoria Road?
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Old May 5th, 2006, 06:37 PM   #8
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dundee "skyscrapers"

Seeing as this is skyscraper, it's worth mentioning that Dundee has some pretty serious multi's: taller than either Aberdeen's or Edinburgh's, and not far short of Glasgow's tallest. Yes, really! Heretical to the Glaswegians, I'm sure, but 'tis a fact.

Most of them are slab blocks rather than point blocks, and only a small proportion were system-built.

Maxwelltown multis, on Alexander St- which face the river, are 24 storeys, and I remember hearing the story of the labourer who was dismantling a builder's hoist when the safety brake failed. he was standing on the hoist platform at the time, and he came down 24 floors- but lived to tell the tale. Clad in red brick and white render.

Hill Street multis- off the famous Hilltown ("Hulltoon", if you're one of the Hilltoon Huns)- which sit on the side of the Law, are 26 storeys tall- pretty much the tallest things in the area apart from Cox's Stack, and the Balcalk TV tower behind the city. Clad mainly in red. Foxy.

South Road multis- in the state of Lochee- were an experiment in no-fines concrete; they're about 20 storeys. Cream and ochre.

Ardler multis- were a "Zeilanbau" type scheme set in parkland to the west of the city (close to Camperdown Park)- mostly demolished now, but were totally massive slab blocks. Home to most of the city's skanks at one point.

Whitfield multis- now blown up. Were quite dramatic, in a burnt umber concrete finger rising against the blue hills kinda way.

There are quite a few others- like Foggyley and Dudhope- although they're maybe only 15 storeys. And then of course, the dreadful Tayside House, which is a rip off by Parrs- a below-par copy of Minoru Yamasaki's Michigan Consolidated Gas Company HQ, but much dumpier, so that it somewhat lacks its parent's elegance. As part of the "Galloway Plan" to re-develop the Waterfront (Mike Galloway is the Director of Planning), Tayside House will also go BOOM in the near future.
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Old May 5th, 2006, 11:37 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mediadave
Not much is said of Dundee that I've seen, but it is the forth city of Scotland
Sorry, couldn't let that pass... Edinburgh is the "forth" city, Dundee is the third city (now overtaking Aberdeen once more), Aberdeen is the fourth city... har har.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mediadave
One of my friends has refered to Dundee as a hill covered in concrete...
Actually, like Rome, Dundee is built on seven hills: Bonnethill, Witch's Knowe, Castlehill, Balgay Hill, Law Hill, Blackshade, and the other one which I can't remember at the moment...

Quote:
Originally Posted by mediadave
As they soon after that was built produced a Waterfront development masterplan, to include a central building planned by Gehry.
Aaargh, the fallacy of Gehry. The Maggies Centre is a nasty wee tin-roofed hut which trades on nothing but Gehry's name. Imagine you're in the terminal stages of cancer, and in the process of undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Your nervous system is overloaded, and your brain is struggling to deal with the toxins. Do you want to sit in a disorientating building, where none of the planes are static, and the geometries aren't restful? The building betrays Gehry's total lack of understanding of, and empathy with, cancer patients. The building is misogynistic- if that's a quality which a building can take on.

Some more thoughts by one of the brothers-
http://*************************/dundee/maggies_dundee.htm

So why would you ask Gehry back to design your city centre? Especially when his plans for Brighton are an empty spectacle, and spectacularly over-budget.

Last edited by wolfie; May 5th, 2006 at 11:43 PM. Reason: wolfishness
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Old May 6th, 2006, 12:12 AM   #10
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Quote:
Maxwelltown multis, on Alexander St- which face the river, are 24 storeys, and I remember hearing the story of the labourer who was dismantling a builder's hoist when the safety brake failed. he was standing on the hoist platform at the time, and he came down 24 floors- but lived to tell the tale. Clad in red brick and white render.

Hill Street multis- off the famous Hilltown ("Hulltoon", if you're one of the Hilltoon Huns)- which sit on the side of the Law, are 26 storeys tall- pretty much the tallest things in the area apart from Cox's Stack, and the Balcalk TV tower behind the city. Clad mainly in red. Foxy.
Fraid not... both sets are 23 storeys tall says Emporis. The tallest being 67m tall. By comparison the tallest high rises in Glasgow are 91m tall. All are being demolished so they say, though not without a fight... Though it is nice to hear someone praise these towers for once and not damn them to hell for being too working class to grace the skyline!

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Old May 6th, 2006, 02:17 AM   #11
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Emporis has got it wrong: my cousin lived in Bucklemaker Court (one of the Hill St multis), for a bit, and I physically counted the floors several times. Maybe they didn't include the undercroft levels, since these blocks sit on pilotis? There may only be 23 habitable storeys, possibly, but there are certainly others underneath- laundries, concierge, foyer et cetera, which I guess must amount to two or three. You're welcome to go and verify, if you like, but I guarantee that they rise 26 storeys out of the ground.

I'll bet you my scale rule against your scepticism that naebody from Emporis ventured into Jute City to check, either.

Dundee has a great skyline, thanks to the multis- a bit like a low rent version of the cover of Martin Pawley's "Terminal Architecture", which has a montage of different skyscrapers which Arup had engineered. Folk say they like living in them, for the most part- so long as the junkies are evicted, the lifts are maintained properly, and they don't become a ghetto for anti-social tenants. Which is how the multis should always have been looked after- it ain't the buildings which are the problem, for the most part- it's the cooncil.

I guess Dundee must have come second to Glasgow in the multi-storey Arms Race in the Sixties- and only with the Red Road flats did the West Coast finally take the prize out of reach...
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Old May 6th, 2006, 09:44 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfie
Actually, like Rome, Dundee is built on seven hills: Bonnethill, Witch's Knowe, Castlehill, Balgay Hill, Law Hill, Blackshade, and the other one which I can't remember at the moment...
Plenty of cities claim this, including Lisbon, as I recall, and tenuously, Edinburgh: Calton Hill, Castle Rock, Corstorphine Hill, Craiglochart Hill, Braid Hill, Blackford Hill, and Arthur's Seat.

Now I'm no Gehry fan - I'm one of those who was wowed by Bilbao the first time I saw photos of it, but got to like him less and less. However, when I was watching the Alain de Botton programme about the "Perfect Home," the people who were being treated in the Dundee Maggie's seemed to loved it.
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Old May 6th, 2006, 02:15 PM   #13
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Depending on how big you count a hill being, you could say that about so many places.
I wouldn't like to add up all the hills here in Glasgow..

Groucho's is a great record shop, but Europa in Stirling just edges it for me.
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Old May 6th, 2006, 07:49 PM   #14
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I know, I know, I made the seven hills reference in a facetious way- after all, none of the Scottish cities has a Palatine Hill. Come to think of it, the only "Palatine" in Britain is the Factory Records compilation. Good old Tony Wilson.

By the way, the other one I couldn't remember in Dundee was Heights of Craigie.

Yup, bargains are known in Europa... and Grouchos does have a funny smell sometimes... although the proprietor "Breeks" Brodie is a top guy, and he does stock some good, but unfashionable, stuff- like the Jurassic 5. The Oldies Museum in Edinburgh (round the corner from the RIAS) is also a good venue for browsing, especially if you're into your Scottish bands (Win, Associates, Finitribe et al.)

Maggies? Mmm well, I remain to be convinced. I did briefly meet Gehry (well, see him walking past me) when he toured the practice I was working at, in pursuit of a Scottish firm to act as executive architects at Ninewells. He was underwhelming in person- small, crumpled looking, surrounded by a kind of anti-charisma. He was accompanied by a "handler"- a willowy PR girl who ushered him along by the elbow as if he was geriatric. Maybe I got the wrong impression, but... at the same time, he appeared to be underwhelmed by what he saw- "So what do you guys use for draughting? Autocad? Gee, we use a little 'ol programme called Catia"

I agree that some folk needing respite care may find it a pleasant, restful place to be- but that wasn't my perception when I experienced it. I tried to put myself in the place of folk with cancer, and I just feel that the building lacks humanity. Also Page & Park's effort in Inverness, which commits the cardinal sin of using cell mytosis as a metaphor to generate the building's schema. In other words, the building itself represents the very thing which is killing you.

ps. Vladimir has got me doubting myself now... will have to do a recount next time I'm in Dundee...
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Old May 7th, 2006, 11:26 PM   #15
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The DC Thomson building impressed me.
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Old May 7th, 2006, 11:38 PM   #16
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It is a very impressive place. Imagine the height level on those streets had all matched that!
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Old May 7th, 2006, 11:41 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gleegieboy
The DC Thomson building impressed me.
Yep, and the vaguely-sub-Lutyens tower was actually built in the 1950's (or even the start of the 60's??), by T. Lindsay Gray, I think.

Why red sandstone, though? There are very few other Locharbriggs-clad buildings in Dundee (Kandahar House at the hinge of Victoria Rd/ Meadowside is the other that springs to mind).

Re. Gehry- just to qualify what I'm saying, my "anxiety" about Gehry comes from several articles I've read about him, or which mention him obliquely. In a review of the big Richard Weston book about Utzon, it was mentioned that Gehry had said he was only interested in the external effect of buildings, to which Utzon replied- "I hope you can tell I'm a different kind of architect to Gehry." Similarly, in an interview (BD?) with Eva Jiricna, it was pointed out that Gehry imagines a shape abstractly, and leaves the engineers to figure out how to make it stand up. Jiricna was aghast, and then explained how structure and form are pretty much indivisible in her own work.

So, my opinions/ prejudices really spring from these, and other things I've read. If the end result of Gehry's buildings was humane, I could forgive him, but...
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Old May 7th, 2006, 11:49 PM   #18
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Gehry i used to like but he bothers me a little too. I saw him talk about his Dundee building and i have never seen an architect with less to say about what they do. It was kind of "yeah we sort of made a plan then we made some shapes then we built it". It was as simplistic as that and very disappointing. His buildings have no quality of transformation about them. They look exactly what they are, scaled up versions of paper and card models. The technology has allowed that and it allows all the aspects that require conceptual notions to be modified into built forms to be ignored. There is something disappointing in that. It always strikes me as more convincing to take a form and then develop that through a filter of structural and constructional ideas into a building. Architecture needs some aspect of the tectonic in it to my mind.

The Maggies Centre disappointed me more specifically for a couple of reasons. Firstly it makes no connection with the landscape, its plonked onto the side and is ultimately little more than a fancy roof on a not very fancy building. Worse than that though is the interior which appears to have neen styled on an '80s health centre. All that light coloured wood....it has no real warmth and the spaces are relatively uninteresting as a whole. The P&P one at the Western looks to buy into the whole Maggies Philosophy much more successfully.
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Old May 8th, 2006, 12:16 AM   #19
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I agree- the Page & Park centre in Glasgow, and Murphy's original one in Edinburgh, are the most successful in terms of producing a welcoming/ homely/ un-institutional environment. Since then, the going has got weird, to quote Hunter S. Thomson, and the weird have gone pro...
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Old May 8th, 2006, 12:20 AM   #20
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There appears to be too much trophy collecting going on. The Hadid building looks interesting as an object but if one was thinking of an architect with a sensitive enough touch to produce something calming and homely would hers be a name that came to mind?
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