Is there a building in Dundee that draws your eye every time you pass it? The people behind Unesco City of Design Dundee hope so.
Today sees the launch of their social media campaign which calls on residents and visitors to share their favourite buildings in Dundee under the hashtag #LoveDesignDundee.
Dundee is one of 17 world cities that hold Unesco City of Design status and the only one in the UK. Among the others are Beijing Bilbao, Berlin, Helsinki, Seoul, Shanghai and Turin.
Each month the team behind Dundee’s winning bid are sharing a new theme. The first is what stares you in the face whenever you visit the city: its architecture.
Willie Watt is a partner at Nicoll Russell Studios in Broughty Ferry, which is creating the new railway station in Dundee. He’s been an architect since 1990 and is president of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.
“Dundee has a very rich history of architecture,” he said. “There are still one or two remnants of the medieval city but the greater part of the city is the result of ‘juteopolis’ which saw tremendous growth in the city during Victorian times.
“This resulted in wonderful buildings like, of course, McManus Galleries. But there are other gems that aren’t so obvious. The former Prudential building opposite McManus is one such case. It was designed by Sir Alfred Waterhouse, who did the Natural History Museum in London.
“At one point many buildings in Dundee were designed by the greatest architects of the day. If you look at the history of the city’s churches, a lot of them were built by pre-eminent architects. There are a number of George Gilbert Scott buildings in Dundee.
“I think a lot of people in the city don’t realise the amazing Victorian heritage we have, which is intertwined with the economic success of jute.”
Modern Dundee’s architecture has a lot to offer as well.
“Dundee went through some highs and lows in the 20th century. Although the Victorian architecture is what the city’s most famous for, there is a lot to celebrate about more recent history as well. The old Timex factory, NCR and the old Olivetti building are all very fine examples of industrial buildings of their time.
“Closer to the present than those, Maggie’s Centre at Ninewells is a very special building that I feel offers help to those suffering from terminal illness.”Follow the project onlinewww.facebook.com/DundeeCityofDesign/ instagram.com/DesignDundee/ twitter.com/DesignDundee
According to Willie, the Dundee we live in today owes a debt to two buildings in particular.
“The creation of a teaching hospital in Ninewells generated a great deal of momentum for the city. It helped underpin the life sciences sector that is now a large plank of the economy. You can look at buildings from a different perspective than just their appearance.
“Then there’s Dundee Rep. I remember the Rep opening it was designed by Nicoll Russell Studios and remains one of the buildings we’re most proud of. Not only was it a theatre, it was a caf, bar and restaurant as well. For the first time you could “do lunch” in Dundee. It was unheard of then.
“That paved the way for the DCA and Sensation, which then generated the cultural quarter of the city.”
One of the many benefits of the waterfront will be to show one of the city’s most famous buildings in a new light.
“Now that some of the groundwork and landscaping has been done you can see just what a centrepiece of the redevelopment the Caird Hall is going to be,” Willie said. “With it opened up to the water a bit more you can really see the power that building has.”
Anna Day is the project manager of Unesco City of Design Dundee.
She said: “2016 is going to be quite a momentous year for Dundee. We want people to celebrate the architecture of the city. Send us pictures of buildings or bits of buildings you really like. Or send us pictures of buildings you really don’t like, although hopefully there are fewer of those in the city these days.
“If there are buildings elsewhere, outwith Dundee, that inspire people then I’d encourage them to post those as well. There are going to be so many new and exciting building projects in Dundee over the coming years it’s good to know what kind of buildings excite people.
“People can follow us and submit pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We want to engage with people who wouldn’t necessarily come along to our events.
“I think it will be interesting to see what people submit. Dundee has a rich architectural spread from the old to the spanking new.”
UNESCO City of Design Dundee will be launching a new social media theme every month and Anna says they’re seeking suggestions.
“We’ll be looking at workspaces. There are a lot of creatives in Dundee and hopefully their workspaces are a bit more interesting than my boring little desk.
“Design is everywhere other themes might look at schools, hospitals or even roads. We want this very much to be a city-wide project so we’d like people to put forward ideas for themes.
“Next year is the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design in Scotland. With Dundee as Britain’s only UNESCO City of Design I expect the spotlight to fall on the city.”
Pictures submitted by the public will be looked at by the people who are shaping Dundee’s £1billion regeneration and seen all over the world.
“We’ll be highlighting them to our team which contains a representative from each of the cultural institutions in the city,” Anna explained. “On top of that they’ll be seen around the world.
“Dundee is a UNESCO City of Design alongside places like Bilbao and Beijing. We’ve got an international audience. Dundee is a global city now.”