The Play Whale Design Concept

In my last post I had decided to redevelop the abandoned Murraygate site as an urban pocket park. The site was challenging in that it did not receive much direct sunlight so that was something I was going to have to find a way to work around.

I sketched out some initial ideas and considered how I would lay the site out. I thought on how I could incorporate reflective surfaces to let more light in and what shade-dwelling plants such as ferns and blossoming dogwood trees I would use in the park space. I made the decision to convert the public side alley and stairs into an extended ramp so to make the parkette more accessible. Once I had come up with some initial design sketches I modelled these out using maquettes using my previously modelled 3D site plan to establish how the lack of light would affect the sapce.


As a theme I really wanted my park to have a strong connection with Dundee; something that would resonate with both locals and visitors alike, especially after the recent opening on the new V&A Design Museum nearby. I came up with the idea of using the Tay Whale as a concept, the skeleton of which is on display at Dundee’s McManus Galleries and would also give a nod to Dundee’s historic, lucrative whaling industry.


I created a CAD model of the site. As the space dropped down a level from the street, I turned this into plywood tiered seating area where people could relax and have lunch and look over the park space with a ramp to the side providing accessible access to the park area and the street behind. The floor of the park was made from teal coloured foam to represent the colour of the River Tay as well as being absorbent and provide a soft landing. Wavy aluminum walls reflect light in as well as act as fern planters and provide more greenery in the space. The main feature of the space is the whale shaped planter focal point in the centre of the park.

FINALparkrear2The space also includes a living wall facing the sun and an art mural on the opposite wall telling the story of the Tay Whale. The park also includes a whale themed sensory wall, some play equipment for children and exercise equipment for adults at the other end. Translucent sail like structures at the rear of the tiered seating area provide some privacy without block light light and views into the park. This structure also includes xylophone pipes to the side and acts as one of Dundee’s many whaling ships.

And that’s the story of how The Play Whale came to be. More images of my final design concept coming soon over on my website.

For the record I don’t agree with whale slaughtering but these were different times and the Tay Whale is a good example of the people of Dundee coming together in good community spirit.




The Famous Tay Whale by William McGonagall
’Twas in the month of December, and in the year 1883,
That a monster whale came to Dundee,
Resolved for a few days to sport and play,
And devour the small fishes in the silvery Tay.
So the monster whale did sport and play
Among the innocent little fishes in the beautiful Tay,
Until he was seen by some men one day,
And they resolved to catch him without delay.
When it came to be known a whale was seen in the Tay,
Some men began to talk and to say,
We must try and catch this monster of a whale,
So come on, brave boys, and never say fail.
Then the people together in crowds did run,
Resolved to capture the whale and to have some fun!
So small boats were launched on the silvery Tay,
While the monster of the deep did sport and play.
Oh! it was a most fearful and beautiful sight,
To see it lashing the water with its tail all its might,
And making the water ascend like a shower of hail,
With one lash of its ugly and mighty tail.
Then the water did descend on the men in the boats,
Which wet their trousers and also their coats;
But it only made them the more determined to catch the whale,
But the whale shook at them his tail.
Then the whale began to puff and to blow,
While the men and the boats after him did go,
Armed well with harpoons for the fray,
Which they fired at him without dismay.
And they laughed and grinned just like wild baboons,
While they fired at him their sharp harpoons:
But when struck with the harpoons he dived below,
Which filled his pursuers’ hearts with woe:
Because they guessed they had lost a prize,
Which caused the tears to well up in their eyes;
And in that their anticipations were only right,
Because he sped on to Stonehaven with all his might:
And was first seen by the crew of a Gourdon fishing boat,
Which they thought was a big coble upturned afloat;
But when they drew near they saw it was a whale,
So they resolved to tow it ashore without fail.
So they got a rope from each boat tied round his tail,
And landed their burden at Stonehaven without fail;
And when the people saw it their voices they did raise,
Declaring that the brave fishermen deserved great praise.
And my opinion is that God sent the whale in time of need,
No matter what other people may think or what is their creed;
I know fishermen in general are often very poor,
And God in His goodness sent it to drive poverty from their door.
So Mr John Wood has bought it for two hundred and twenty-six pound,
And has brought it to Dundee all safe and all sound;
Which measures 40 feet in length from the snout to the tail,
So I advise the people far and near to see it without fail.
Then hurrah! for the mighty monster whale,
Which has got 17 feet 4 inches from tip to tip of a tail!
Which can be seen for a sixpence or a shilling,
That is to say, if the people all are willing.

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