Psychedelia Rules!

Union Street has had a temporary make-over. No traffic for most of the day, just pedestrians enjoying the pollution-free former thoroughfare, and relaxing in the outside seating areas.

It’s quite a change, brought about by the creation of outside seating areas which use the road space that has been created by stopping traffic access between the hours of 11am and 4pm.  Access, strictly for deliveries, is allowed for vehicles prior to 11am and after 4pm.

The funding for the changes has come from ‘Spaces for People’ through Sustrans Scotland and in partnership with Dundee City Council. The execution and design input came from the Dundee UNESCO City of Design team, led by Annie Marrs, and was the result of a collaboration and discussion with the businesses who operate in Union Street.

Interestingly, this project uses pedestrianisation to deliver what is hoped will be a stronger commercial environment rather than having safety and the removal of vehicles from a street as the desired results. Union Street, which is one of the main pedestrian thoroughfares from the main city centre bus stops down to the V&A, the RRS Discovery Point visitor centre and the railway station, is hoping to create a destination area in the city in its own right. This collaborative approach is to be welcomed, but care needs to be taken to ensure that there is a synergy between the business premises and their new environment.

The work has been carried out by local designers and makers and, as a result, rather than importing some off-the-peg street furniture, the funding has been largely spent in the local area. Good design always works best when it is the result of local considerations; and with the painting design already planned to have a limited life it is to be hoped that additional funding will be available to keep the project up to standard and perhaps take it to a different level. It is obvious that what works during Dundee’s sunny warm months may need to be adjusted to cope with the colder wetter months.

The original concept of High Street shopping was that the collective drawing power of the street’s retailing offer provided a strong attraction for shoppers. This imaginative approach to turn Union Street into a destination street seems to me to be a worthwhile experiment and the businesses who have largely been in support of the experiment are to be congratulated.

Article by Brian Cram for Newsflash 46 (September 2020)