Tayside and Central Scotland

Dundee's Royal Arch remade in cardboard

Royal Arch Image copyright Dundee Central Library

To this day, some in Dundee still lament the decision to demolish the city's Royal Arch as part of developments around the Tay Road Bridge in the 1960s.

This weekend, elements of the structure -- which commemorated a visit of Queen Victoria to the city -- will be recreated, but this time in cardboard, only to be torn down again on Sunday.

It is one in a series of public art projects worldwide, but those responsible for bringing it to Dundee say, with so much change in the city, this is a good time to examine the past.

"This is the second time this area has been redeveloped in living memory," says Claire Dow, producer of the People's Tower: Dundee's Royal Arch.

"It's only 50 years since this whole area was changed with the Tay Road Bridge and now it's being changed again so I think for Dundee it's a good moment to think about the buildings that aren't there anymore, the buildings that are currently being built and all that architectural heritage."

Image caption About 1,200 boxes will be used in the construction

In a workshop not far from the city's waterfront preparations have been taking place for the event.

Masking tape and cardboard boxes might not seem like obvious materials to recreate a grand archway, but 1,200 flat pack boxes are being taped into about 40 different shapes and then they will be put together on the waterfront close to its original position, using help from volunteers and passers by.

"Because I'm from Dundee I know how important the arch was," says architecture student, Michelle Hunt who is helping with the preparations.

"My parents have spoken about where it was originally and how it was almost devastation when it was knocked down and how they really regret it."

Image caption A variety of shapes have been prepared for the construction

She decided to stay and study in Dundee partly because, with the development at the city's waterfront, there is just so much going on architecture-wise.

The team bringing the project to Dundee is led by French artist Olivier Grossetete.

His People's Towers have been completed all over world, from Australia to Sweden, from Taiwan to Mexico, Moscow and now Dundee.

"The entire project is about the participation of the people and the participation of the audience," says Dirk D'hondt who is part of the team.

" It's the people's tower, proof that if you really want something, you can do it."

Image caption A pavement inscription marks the site of the Royal Arch

As for knocking it down again, because it is made of cardboard it would not last too long anyway and it is safer for it to be demolished like this.

"It's part of life I guess," adds Mr D'hondt "the knocking down is good fun for the kids, knocking it down and then dancing on it. They love it."

Down at the waterfront, plaques in the pavement mark where the Royal Arch once stood. The cardboard structure is to be close by and will reach the size of a four-storey house. The organisers are looking for public help to build it.

"It's a simple building system," says Claire Dow "where you stick some boxes together and you lift them and shunt some underneath." That is then repeated, as the structure rises up.

"But of course as that gets bigger and bigger and bigger," she continues "you need more and more people to help lift so the shunting and the taping can happen."

For her, it is that idea of a shared experience that is the real draw and because it is about the Royal Arch it is something she says which is "very much about Dundee".

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