Credit: Violeta Vasileva
Credit: Sophia Rusinova


During their period of research, the Unit One collective found that Aberdeen has a driven economy which has been built through the Oil and Gas sector, Tourism and the Food and Drink sector. In addition to this, the collective also found areas where the city needs improvement - better social housing that promotes a healthy lifestyle, a lack of connection between the waterfront and the city centre and a lack of defences to protect the waterfront as sea levels rise.

As a response to the key areas that need improved, the collective developed eleven points that state what Aberdeen needs. These points come together to support four overarching themes: Healthy City, Adaptability, The Edge and Opportunities. This section explores each of the overarching themes and explains how the collective has applied each point within the Living Edge masterplan.

Credit: Basia Walicka

The Living Fabric is a masterplan proposal being developed by the current Stage Five students within the Unit One collective. It is a continuation of the Living Edge and looks at the connection between the new waterfront, Aberdeen Harbour and the City Centre. 


Credit: Liane Wood
Credit: Liane Wood

Before 2018, Unit One was known as the Housing Research and Practice Unit. The unit explored difference masterplanning scenarios across Scotland. The final HRPU year group (2019 Graduates) looked at Aberdeen Harbour and how the city could utilise its waterfront more. 

unit | one 

Unit One is a student collective part of the Master in Architecture program at the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment in Robert Gordon University.

The unit is lead by Neil Lamb and Professor Bill Black of Richard Murphy Architects. 


Unit One has a legacy of working with partners on live projects to undertake research and produce strategic masterplans in relation to Aberdeen. Compelling concepts have been generated, where the outputs of the unit have challenged and informed the Council's own proposals. The unit acts as a provocateur in the sharing of collaborative responses and individual projects with all stakeholders.

The objective of each collective is to pursue the unit's interest in underlying urban themes by proposing strategies to strengthen the urban relationships across the city and to create visions for a revitalised Aberdeen’s post oil future.

The Living Edge Vision

Aberdeen is currently a city in transition. It is moving to adapt with the challenges it faces alongside the rest of the country. The Living Edge can provide an opportunity to help the city adapt and grow for the future with its residents at its heart.

Through the delivery of this vision, the Living Edge can:

  • Deliver a sea defence system which will create a new blue habitat and protect the city from changes in sea level.

  • Create a place for people to live, grow and work to live their best life.

  • Provide greater opportunities for innovation and research developments alongside becoming a greater attraction to keep the university demographic in the city.

  • Connect Aberdeen - connect the city through transport, through digital means and through the people’s pride for their city.

Future  Proof

Post - Pandemic

Credit: Stuart Alexander
Credit: Sophia Rusinova

Aberdeen’s waterfront has large potential for development, but it is also a landmark and asset to the City of Aberdeen. This vast landscape hosts one of the oldest golf courses in the region but also one of the busiest roads at rush hour. It is home to the Ice Rink, the Beach Leisure Centre, the Ballroom and Aberdeen’s historical fairground. A place where many Aberdonian’s have built cherished memories. What does the future hold for this area? 

As a collective, Unit One underwent a three-month period of substantial research to develop a greater understanding of Aberdeen as a whole: its history, its opportunities, its strengths, its weaknesses and its threats. The outcome of this research: a vision – labelled the Living Edge. An architectural response to define the boundaries between the urban and the natural environment in Aberdeen, as a method of connectivity between the two but with the wider benefit of protecting our coastline and our city for the future.

The £2 Billion transformation of Aberdeen Waterfront, spanning 220 hectares from Donmouth to the harbour, will follow a thirty-year delivery plan to implement a new sea defence system to protect the city for the future, bring new tourism to the city and create a place for the people to feel they belong.

Credit for text: Liane Wood

Credit for Images: Rachael O'Donnell, Google and Aberdeen Harbour Board