Nearly 400 school children gathered at the Tivoli Theatre in Aberdeen to celebrate the success of a project that saw pupils designing their ideal shop for Union Street, the city’s iconic thoroughfare.
Youngsters from six primary schools – Albyn, Heathryburn, Kittybrewster, Middleton Park, Robert Gordon’s College and Skene Square – were guided by experts from The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment and from the Aberdeen Society of Architects.
Pupils’ ideas ranged from a music shop offering on-site tuition to “Pixel Café” – a gaming centre – to a shop where you could create sweets with any flavour, including Brussels Sprouts!
Youngsters used drawings and models to show how premises would look, considering aspects like security and lighting as well as the layout inside.
The project was run as a part of the Union Street Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS), which is supported by Aberdeen City Council, Historic Environment Scotland and Aberdeen Inspired.
Councillor Marie Boulton, the Council’s spokesperson for the City Centre Masterplan, said: “Our young people responded brilliantly to the project task and the huge variety of designs for Union Street show what’s possible when it comes to place-making.
“Through CARS the Council and its partners are working with owners to conserve our historic buildings and bring them back into use, and hopefully entrepreneurs will be inspired to turn some of these ideas into reality, maybe even the pupils themselves when they’re older.
“What’s equally exciting is the enthusiasm with which the children embraced the project. They imagined Union Street having a vibrant, multi-faceted future, as a place they want to visit and enjoy, a vision we can all share and support.”
Pupils representing the schools were invited on stage to collect participation certificates on behalf of their colleagues.
Yusuf Rasool, a P5 pupil at Middleton Park, looked back in time for inspiration. He said: “The shop is called ‘The Past’. It’s a history shop, the history of everything. It would be a bit like a museum with a gift shop.”
Kittybrewster P6/7 pupil Maria Madrzak helped design a fruit shop to add a splash of colour to the streetscape. She said: “Union Street can sometimes be dull!”
And Tejas Ghosh, a P6 pupil at Robert Gordon’s College, dreamed up the “Aberdonian Chocolate Revolution”. He said: “It would be a healthy chocolate store where you could design your own chocolate using pure cocoa beans.”
The schools project was developed by the Council’s CARS officer, the Aberdeen Urban Studies Trust, and the Aberdeen City Heritage Trust.
CARS is a £2.4 million building improvement programme for historic properties on Union Street, jointly funded by Aberdeen City Council and Historic Environment Scotland with further support from Aberdeen Inspired. Grants are available to help pay for repairs and renovations.
A recent award was made in support of a shop front refurbishment, part of conversion work to bring an empty unit back into use as a restaurant.
A selection of the children’s designs will go on public display at Aberdeen Arts Centre from December 4-9.
* Main photograph shows Councillor Marie Boulton with pupils representing the participating schools.