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RGU students support projects to regenerate coastal towns across the north-east

By Kyle Ritchie

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Students from Robert Gordon University are engaging with community groups across the north-east to revitalise coastal towns.

Architectural technology students, from the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment, are working with organisations in Macduff, Buckie, Fraserburgh and Peterhead as part of their circular Economy Futures project, to renovate key sites across the north-east.

In Macduff, plans have been put forward to develop a site close to the harbour, next to the vacant Macduff Town Hall.

The site, which was once a hotel, has remained derelict since burning down 10 years ago.

The students are engaging with local councillors and have developed plans to establish a new community centre on the derelict site and to renovate the Town Hall.

In Peterhead, students are looking into ways of transforming the former Arbuthnott House and Gardens, which is now derelict, into a zero carbon, community orientated building that would house a museum, library and café.

New visions for Peterhead by architectural technology student, Tehillah Sihlabela.
New visions for Peterhead by architectural technology student, Tehillah Sihlabela.

The site is currently under development for a real project along these lines, which aids the realism of the student project at this site.

In Fraserburgh, students are engaging with Aberdeenshire Council to renovate a council building into a community facility.

The building, which is part of the Fraserburgh Heritage Group Museum celebrating the heritage of the area, had its roof destroyed in Storm Arwen in 2022 and is looking to be developed in the near future.

Elsewhere in Buckie, students have come up with plans to retrofit an industrial site next to the harbour and are considering how to recycle the derelict buildings and materials on site.

Dr Jonathan Scott, course leader in architectural technology, said: “This is a really exciting project that offers ideas to breathe new life into coastal towns across the north-east.

“The region has such a rich heritage, and there is so much potential to develop derelict sites, whilst recognising the historical importance of the buildings.

“We are really excited to be engaging with the local communities to better understand their needs and to develop projects that minimise their carbon footprint, whilst supporting the social and economic potential of coastal towns.”

Councillor for Peterhead North and Rattray councillor Matthew James, who has been engaging with the students, said: “As a former student of RGU’s Architectural Technology course, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture.

“We were often encouraged to consider the wider reaching benefits of architectural interventions on communities and their region.

“I am delighted to see that this work has continued, and it is exciting to see that Arbuthnot House in Peterhead has been selected as one of the focuses of this year’s projects, particularly given it’s alignment to an active project of the Peterhead Cultural Quarter.

“The offer our coastal towns have is rich and vast, and I welcome the effort of Jonathan and his team in widening the reach of their heritage and highlighting the importance of their impact on Aberdeenshire.

“I look forward to seeing the students’ completed work and taking part in the end of year review.”

One of the students working on the project, Tehillah Sihlabela, has put forward designs to create a spa and health centre in Peterhead.

Tehillah said: “We’ve learnt how rich the history of the north-east is and why coastal towns are so important to the region which has really helped our designs.

“We’ve come up with new ideas to revitalise the area, without destroying its historic value, and in many cases, drawn on a building’s past, incorporating this, and innovative design into the new spaces.”

Another student, Robert Ironside, has designed a heritage centre and repurposed a harbour building in Buckie.

Robert said: “Focusing on coastal towns in the north-east of Scotland has given me a better understanding about the history, evolution and current day situation of the coastal towns.

“I’ve learnt why the community of the north-east is so proud and passionate about their area.

“With my site being Buckie, I focused heavily on the adaptability of space and function, allowing for various potential opportunities.

“I’ve suggested creating a heritage centre to celebrate the history of Buckie and educate visitors.

“My other idea is to repurpose a derelict building into a recycled seashell centre, so that new industry can be brought to the community.

“I hope our ideas can offer new opportunities and development to the area and bring the community closer together.”

As part of the project, students have undertaken an in-depth historic study and spoken to local communities, planners and councillors to find out what people would like to see in their towns, and to gather more information about the region's history.

They have also collected old photos, books and autobiographies from local libraries and collated existing studies and drawings from Aberdeenshire Council.

The students will formerly present their plans in an exhibition at the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment in May.

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