The Architecture and the City unit is exploring strategies for the development of the central waterfront in Dundee – part of a £1 billion regeneration project for the City of Dundee. The centrepiece of this development is the £45m V&A at Dundee project. Located in the central waterfront zone, the V&A is expected to be a key catalyst in reshaping the image of Dundee. Find out more about the proposed regeneration at the Dundee waterfront website.

Background to the waterfront regeneration

In 1998, a decision was taken by the Dundee Partnership to attempt to reintegrate the central waterfront with the city centre. As illustrated in the previous chapters the waterfront had become divorced from the city proper. A 30 year masterplan was proposed which aimed to create a shared vision for the area; creating a distinct identity and providing a new investment opportunity. This masterplan was eventually delivered in 2001.

Following an in-depth consultation process a new view for the city emerged; the extension of the city centre down to the waterfront, the creation of a new grid iron street pattern, improved provision for walking, cycling and buses, the reduction of the effect of cars and parking, the removal of some of the Tay Road Bridge ramps, the creation of a pair of east/west tree lined boulevards, provision of sites for a variety of mixed use developments, the formation of a major new civic space and re-opened dock and the provision of a new rail station and arrival square. Work is currently underway in making this vision a reality. There has been a large degree of support from the public.

Below are images of the waterfront condition as it was in 2012 and the masterplan proposed by Dundee City Council. Click on the images to load a larger high-resolution version.

Drawing of the Dundee central waterfront zone as it was at the start of 2012.

Drawing of the Dundee central waterfront zone as it was at the start of 2012.

Drawing of the Dundee City Council proposed masterplan for the central waterfront.

Drawing of the Dundee City Council proposed masterplan for the central waterfront.


History of Dundee

The location of Dundee on the northern shore of the Firth of Tay has strongly influenced the city’s history. Located two days sailing north of Edinburgh, the city became a key trade port on shipping routes to and from the Baltic and northern European ports. The earliest harbour was located to the east of the Castle Rock (adjacent to the existing Gellatly Street/Seagate junction).In the 16th century the port had moved westwards to a point close to the current High Street at Whitehall Crescent. The harbour remained at this site during the 17th and 18th century.

In 1793 Dundee’s first commercial flax mills were built. By the 1830s jute surpassed flax as the dominant industry within the city. Dundee, as a trading port, benefitted greatly from this boom in jute production. As a result Dundee expanded at a rapid rate. The harbour, and the rail system, had to adapt to sustain the jute industry.

Between 1812 and 1825 Thomas Telford designed and built the King William IV Dock and the West Graving Dock on the site of the old tidal harbour. In addition to this, a new tidal harbour to the south was constructed in order to manage the increased demands. Over the next 100 years development continued with Earl Grey Dock formed from the Graving Dock and Victoria and Camperdown Docks added to the east. The city gradually moved into the existing Tay.

The first railway opened in Dundee in 1831.The West Station, Goods Station and Tay Bridge Station was built to the west of the harbour. West of St. Nicholas’ Craig was filled in to create a goods yard with the rail tracks lining the new shore and their retaining wall forming the esplanade. By the end of the 19th Century, the first signs of industrial decline were apparent. The city took a further blow when the designs for a new civic centre on the site of the central waterfront failed to be realised as a result of the start of World War One.

During the 1960’s the city’s relationship to the waterfront was once more addressed. The proposed northern land fall of the Tay Road Bridge was to enter the heart of the city. The original proposal by the engineer, Ove Arup, utilised a site further east at Stannergate, creating a direct connection to the Kingsway motorway. As a result, the historic central dock complex was in-filled to accommodate the ramps and road system. The resultant effect was the loss of the harbour and the severance of the waterfront from the city. This time also saw the demolition of the Overgate thoroughfare and its replacement by a shopping centre. Jute production came to an end in the 1970’s. At this time there was a proposal for a multi-level, modernist, civic and commercial centre, however the Olympia Leisure Centre and Tayside House were the only completed elements.

*History of Dundee taken from the Architecture and the City 2012 / 2013 unit groupwork book (not currently available online).