Creative Dundee

The People’s Tower – Dundee’s Royal Arch

Photo: Alan Richardson.

UPDATE: To see time lapses of the project, see The Courier’s feature here

Dundee’s Royal Arch, could soon be gracing our city’s waterfront once again for a limited time only if crowdfunding can be secured for The People’s Tower; Dundee Royal Arch. This participatory event, which uses Olivier Grossetete’s public engagement and architectural creativity, will help bring the community of Dundee together as they recreate Dundee’s iconic Royal Arch out of a cardboard structure before toppling the tower and trampling on its remains. The original structure was built to commemorate the visit of Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, in 1844 however the cardboard structure will be part of annual festival Ignite Dundee. To view the crowdfunding page and donate, click here.

Olivier’s People’s Towers have been built all over the world, with designs based on buildings of architectural interest particular to a place. With passing members of the public the towers are constructed over the course of a morning before a grand finale, where they are lowered and trampled.

Previous events have been hugely popular due to the child-like nature, easy to build structures and of course, free to participate project. It will benefit local residents by showcasing Dundee as a creative place in a way that is fun and engaging for ordinary residents, and people who are not usual arts attenders. Its visibility and presence will also highlight the architectural heritage and history of Dundee.

The Project

The People’s Tower is a visible, fun celebration of architecture and design. A huge cardboard tower is erected in the centre of the city, by a core team with the help of the public and passers-by who join in its construction.

Photo credit:
Photo credit:


French artist Olivier Grosstete will visit Dundee, examine the architecture here and using pictures and research, he will design a recreation of the Royal Arch. Olivier will then design the construction and plan the engineering, and over a thousand cardboard pieces will be pre-cut. They will arrive in Dundee as flat card, and during the week leading up to the build event, the team will spend 5 days with volunteers turning the flat card into the bespoke cardboard building blocks that make the Arch.

Event Day – Saturday 28 May 2016

The team will gather in Dundee’s newly formed Slessor Gardens. There, with the help of passing members of the public and volunteers, the Arch will grow upwards in layers as boxes are taped together and lifted and others are shunted underneath.

The Arch will remain on site overnight, leaving the afternoon for visitors to wander around and through the structure. Heritage groups will provide talks on the history of the Royal Arch, lead walks and at night the team will light up the Arch with projections of structural plans coloured by children which will illuminate it for passing traffic, increasing its presence and visibility.

Topple event – Sunday 29 May 2016

On the second day, this collaborative effort and shared experience culminates in the careful toppling of the tower, and joyous trampling.


Creative Rationale

Creatively, the project focuses on both the heritage of Dundee’s built environment and on fun public engagement. The choice of the Royal Arch as the build structure will bring vividly to life Dundee’s architectural past. Dundee’s campaign to become UK City of Culture, revealed widespread regret for the perceived loss of Dundee’s heritage and for building works carried out in the 60s which destroyed what many considered to be important historical buildings. This included the Royal Arch, and there are continuing campaigns to have it restored or rebuilt. The project’s visibility and presence will highlight the architectural heritage of Dundee and stimulate dialogue on current developments. The cardboard Arch will become an exciting ghost of buildings past, and having it on the original site, it becomes almost a tunnel through time to catch a glimpse of Dundee’s history.

The project is about exclusivity, and providing shared experiences to encourage feelings of belonging, and to reinforce Dundee as a creative place for its people. Dundee has a very active arts sector, and produces strong work. This often benefits a returning audience, and can occasionally talk to itself. This project aims to appeal to a wide section of the community, in a very visible way. It will attract non arts attenders, and empower them to think of themselves as creative. It is a crowd pleasing, spectacular event which is easy for the public to participate in.

Image credit:
Slessor Gardens. Image credit:

Effective management

The project is being delivered through the Dundee Institute of Architects, and managed by events producer Claire Dow. The Dundee Institute of Architects is one of six chapters of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), a registered charity. The team have secured some funding from Dundee City Festival Trust; The Ignite Festival through Ignite Sparks and Creative Scotland. The team also have a crowdfunding campaign and are actively seeking sponsorship to deliver the project. You can view the campaign page and donate here.

The People’s Tower; Dundee’s Royal Arch will be part of the Ignite Festival which runs for the month of May; and part of the Festival Of Architecture 2016, part of the Year of Innovation Architecture and Design.

Keep up with the project on their Facebook and Twitter.


Title here