Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen

Gold Award







Aberdeen City Council


Union Terrace Gardens is a green space in Aberdeen’s city centre with a long history of community use. This project includes major engineering works, a new 80-metre-long footbridge, viewing platforms, an enhancement of the natural amphitheatre and three new pavilions, as well as extensive public realm and park improvements. Involved from concept stage, Arup was commissioned to help develop a regeneration plan that was sympathetic of the gardens’ historical role in the city and transformed the space into a vibrant and accessible area for the public. High quality lighting with local distinctiveness sets the gardens apart as a night-time destination. Arup provided a lighting design with distinctive features and vistas so that key routes and event spaces are well lit 24/7 thus improving access and safety. Secondary areas also benefit from low level feature lighting to minimise power use and help respect and encourage wildlife. Historic elements are celebrated with accent lighting and traditional lanterns were sensitively upgraded to LED. Safety for all ages and abilities is considered using low-level and high-level lighting. Layers of light were used to create an elegant, welcoming and safe environment. Following a minimalist approach, luminaires were integrated within handrails, benches and walkways to conceal the light sources, creating a low glare ambient light with visual softness. Key light was provided to add emphasis to features and elements around the park, creating drama and balance to the visual composition. The central feature lighting above the lawn comprises a bespoke illuminated ring, combining functional light and an ephemeral experiential light art element. The main centrepiece feature lighting sets the stage for events and showcases light as an experience. Arup worked with the design team to develop the concept and help visualise the design at the early stages. We engaged with manufacturers to develop the detailed design specification working through to the project completion. Sustainability was embedded in the heart of the design. The project uses long-life, efficient warm white LED light sources. We retained existing historic lanterns, upgrading with the latest LED technology. A networked lighting control system extends to all areas of the park to dim the lighting throughout the evening, and switch off certain aspects at night, reducing energy and light pollution as well as extending the lifespan of the LEDs. The enhanced lighting transforms the gardens into a new night-time destination in the city, providing a safe and accessible venue for events and social interaction to Aberdeen and its visitors.




Images #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7: Christopher Swan. Image #8: Arup