Dundee Design: Buildings in Tayside, Scotland

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Dundee Despair

by David Lawson

I moved back to Scotland after living in Scandinavia, Austria and latterly London. I moved back to the Dundee area where I’m originally from and began looking for a place to live.

With the odd exception, I am very disappointed by the poor choice of all the same bland housing, ugliness and the building standards of housing. The houses all look very similar even to the point of using the same materials and the general finish is very poor. The rooms are all very small with tiny windows offering very little natural light, poor energy efficiency no balconies its so depressing and with no privacy in tiny rear garden patches.

In the main the lack of joined up master planning especially along the waterfront with weak architecture and design is again creating an ugly waterfront space dominated by traffic, a supermarket and retail outlets. A coastal city with a wonderful south facing aspect is a complete wasted opportunity very much like Edinburgh waterfront and even Kirckaldy are are example of the same ugly messes and placing the wrong things in the wrong place.

The design, architecture,standards, styles and the layout by the developers can only be described as appalling. The site plans do not conform to a future sustainable public transport and communities especially a traffic free environment for children. The developers cannot even build garages big enough for the cars. There are no local cafe, small shops, sports facilities, restaurants, etc so everyone has to get in their cars to travel to the supermarkets or into town. The town planning is the complete opposite of living in Europe.the towns and cities look so depressing like the economy has been in decline while other parts of the world flourish.

The riverside has a large Tesco, horrible hotels and some new offices, a poor retail outlet with horrible food and a main riverside road, why!!?? Why are our standards so low?? Surely the City and its people should be connected to the Tay front with beautiful buildings and parks, walkways or build a grand promenade.

I am told Dundee is redeveloping and re-branding itself and hoped it has learned from the huge mess made in the past. The location of Dundee and the climate offers such huge potential from quality of life to the cities position which are in many ways far better than the other city climates in Scotland. There are some great things happening in Dundee in the universities and Ninewells.

I believe in good architecture and a beautiful building which brings many benefits to its people, economy and attracts tourists. Scotland has a beautiful countryside yet we blot the landscape pastiche ugly buildings and especially housing developments. Tourists come to see our countryside, history, the old castles and buildings but what have we built since the 1940’s to attract the tourists of the future, supermarkets, Shopping Malls, fragmented transport systems, retail parks, clone town’s and horrible horrible housing estates.

The silence about beauty has allowed property developers to build on profit margin. Public consensus is now hopefully forming in some areas (South of England) about what makes good housing but people have no choice. Lots of people agree that windows and rooms are too small on the current generation of new homes. Many volume builders are turning out very very disappointing buildings for no good reason. Open spaces and natural light brings happiness and well-being. It does not cost more to build a nice building, you just have to employ a good architect which they on the whole refuse to do. The reason why the ipod has outsold every competitor is because it looks and sounds better then everything else on the market, the same should apply to our cities, towns and villages and houses where we live and work.

We are on the same latitude as Scandinavia who have short days in winter and long days in summer whom construct buildings to capture full day light through the building until sunset which provides well-being and save energy bills. Their houses and buildings are all different colours, the harbours look great.New waterfronts such Hammarby and Malmo in Sweden and in many other areas in Europe are far superior in quality and landscape.

We have lost all sense of style and design and accept low standards, why do we just sit back and accept the poor house building standards which cost a fortune? The Scandinavians and the Dutch are good examples of design, architecture, town and infrastructure planning with a great emphasise and thought on detail and the surrounding landscape and environment, some we seem to be unable to grasp.

Scotland has an inspiring countryside yet most our our towns are bleak and grey compared to many other countries.

Perhaps organise a annual event on good design, architecture incorporating the environment with national and international companies and top names such as Sir Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid in their fields to the Dundee area and perhaps produce a better masterplan.

It is only once working abroad then coming back the comparison is so visible.

I hope you have the influenece to make things better.

Dundee Design – text by David A Lawson


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