Union Terrace Gardens: A Virtual Tour of Aberdeen’s Historic Gem Before and After Refurbishment.

Union Terrace Gardens is a historic public park and gardens in Aberdeen, Scotland. The sunken gardens opened to the public in 1879 and underwent a £28.3 million refurbishment in 2022.

As a local and experienced asset visualisation company, we were asked to create a comprehensive digital record and virtual tour of the area. The immersive tour covers both the gardens and the interiors of historic buildings, showcasing the area before and after the 2022 refurbishment.

Our capture technicians used 360 Photography to document the two-and-a-half-acre site initially in 2018 and again in 2023. This allowed us to build a virtual tour where visitors can compare past and present views side-by-side with the simple click of a button. Users can navigate through the gardens using hotspots to move between the various areas, from street level to the main lawn area below.

These digital records preserve cultural and historical information and support research and restoration efforts but also make these sites accessible to a global audience.

Our in-house 3D Projects Manager, Alan Watson, who helped coordinate and build the tour said: “The Union Terrace Gardens virtual tour was initially conceived as a means of creating a historical record of the Gardens before and after their refurbishment.

Our first aim was to create an easy-to-use tool which allowed viewers to directly compare the old layout with the new as they take a virtual stroll through the park.

In addition to the comparison tool, we wanted to allow people who cannot visit in person to see and enjoy the gardens. We also aimed to promote the ongoing work by various third parties in revitalising the city centre, and to provide educational content through additional information pop-ups and supplementary photographs located on items of interest throughout the gardens.”

A look inside the Victorian toilets of Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen.

One tour highlight is the Victorian toilets, featuring intricate tiling and heritage fixtures. Although these toilets remain largely in their original condition, they are currently closed to the public.

Bob Keiller, head of Our Union Street, which is a community-led organisation on a mission to regenerate, repopulate and reinvigorate Union Street in Aberdeen, believes the Victorian toilets could be transformed into the city’s quirkiest bar noting that “other cities have created new and funky dining and entertaining spaces with similar spaces”.

He said: “I think the combination of the new and the old is compelling and where we can, we should embrace the heritage that we have along Union Street, but it also shouldn’t hold us back from making progress and developing new facilities where we need them. “The toilets come from another era and are atmospheric with lots of character and it would be great to see that used in some way.” Mr Keiller says the male toilets can no longer be used as they are decommissioned, but the female toilets are now unisex and accessed through the pavilion.

“People do like things that feel traditional and feel authentic to the history of the place. “You see it across many European cities, where people relish things that are different. “Aberdeen during the 70s and 80s, we stripped out a lot of the fittings and features of buildings and what was left was quite bland and boring retail spaces, so we have a way to go to build back some of the character into Union Street. “That blend of modernity and history could make for a compelling future.”

A view from the sunken area of Union Terrace Gardens in Aberdeen.

Although a slight divergence from our usual work in creating large-scale asset visualisations for the energy sector, our skills in visualisation, site familiarisation, knowledge transfer, management of change and historical record keeping were easily transferable across sectors, leading to a valuable record of the development of our city.

At ZynQ 360, we utilise technologies like 360 photography, laser scanning, SLAM, photogrammetry, and drones to capture and visualise a wide range of assets.

This capture data is processed, then integrated with existing client data and systems and ingested into ZynQ, our secure, cloud-based visualisation software.

View the full tour here.

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