Posts tagged ‘Marischal Square’

August 9, 2015

The Wallace Tower – Not just any banishment but Marks & Spencer banishment

Wallace Tower  Mention the Wallace Tower and some smart Alec’s bound to chip in, it’s nae the Wallace Tower, it’s Benholm’s Lodgings, to which the appropriate response is, aye I ken but it’s bin the Wallace Tower for well over a century so it’s earned the name Wallace Tower. If someone turned up at my house and insisted it was so and sos because they’d lived there a few decades ago I’d tell them where to get off, wouldn’t you? Built for Sir Robert Keith, whose brother the Earl of Marischal founded Marischal College (once a separate university from King’s College) the house was also known as Keith’s Lodgings. Given its long existence – 500 years – it has seen a lot of comings and goings. For most of that time it occupied a prime position the corner of the Netherkirkgate (the lower gate or port into the town – the Upperkirkgate being the higher up gate), above Carnegie’s brae, which came to be known as the Wallace neuk (corner). At one time the area was known as Putachieside. The home of Lord Forbes at Keig by Alford used to be known as Putachie.  Lord Forbes kept a town house in Aberdeen, near Benholm’s Lodgings and  referring to the area by his country house name stuck. It was near where the Aberdeen Market is now… beside Putachie’s house – Putachieside. I hope you’re still following – and one of the streets, which ran from Carnegie’s brae towards what is now Market Street (or as near as damn it) came to be called Putachie. Putachie has gone. The Netherkirkgate has gone. The Wallace nook has gone. The Wallace Tower has gone. The Wallace name was used when a bar of that name occupied part of the building when it was slap bang in the centre of town not in its present location on a grassy knoll at Tillydrone. The low hill it stands on is the remains of a Norman motte. As for the  name it’s possibly a corruption of wally meaning well (a nearby well-house) with the diminutive ie or y wally hoose or well-house for folks uncomfortable with the Doric. This is all a long way from the Wallace Tower’s current abode at Tillydrone. It’s a fine enough site for this fine wee building but for many Aberdonians of a certain vintage – it’s not its home. Home should be, they believe, somewhere close to the vanished Netherkirkgate – maybe close to the Upperkirkgate… maybe it could have occupied pride of place, or second place to Skene’s House in Marischal Square but then there is no longer to be a Marischal Square so it can be added to my banished list.  Putachie has gone. The Netherkirkgate has gone. The Wallace nook has gone. The Wallace Tower has gone. Marischal Square has gone before it’s ever been. Rewind…why did the Wallace Tower go west? Think Marischal Square – what’s driving this corporate carbuncle? the ugly face of capitalism silly. It was a similar situation back in the swinging sixties. Marks & Spencers wanted to expand their store across from the Wallace Tower and councillors sucked on their pencil tips and thought how old fashioned this auld rickle of stanes looked in what could be a modern shopping precinct. What to do? Before you could say pretty fine example of a late 16th early 17th century rubble-built  Scottish tower house it was howked up and trundled on the back of several lorries far enough away from the city centre that those pencil sucking councillors were no longer reminded that Aberdeen did once have some very fine buildings indeed. The M & S extension turned out to be a not-so-very fine a building or even a half-decent building but who cared? This was the 1960s and anything went then, even prefabricated lookalike every other prefabricated buildings that littered every other town’s high streets. Still, as we know when it comes to Aberdeen city centre it’s a case of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.  Actually I don’t really mind the Tower being at Tillydrone for it is a good enough spot, at the edge of Seaton Park, but look at it – no, really look at it. When did you last see anything of architectural importance in Aberdeen look this bad? Well how about last week – and Westburn House. As far as preserving historically important architecture/introducing high quality contemporary buildings to the city Aberdeen councils would get straight As for corporate delinquency. Here we have boarded up windows to prevent another empty building falling victim to vandalism – the petty kind that ends up in courts and fined not the kind that is carried out on a large scale by local authorities. The original Benholm’s lodging house was constructed as a unique Z-plan tower house that was used as lodgings. In the late 18thC a wing was added and various adaptations have been made. At one time a balcony was built to provide grand views across the south of the area. There have been many plans to get the Wallace Tower back into some kind of useful existence but all fall through. It’s not connected with The Wallace … Aye we ken. Wallace never came this far north… So you say.  Since it is in Tillydrone it would be good if that community could make something of it but everything comes down to having sustainable funding in the end. Given that it is so close to the University it might find a use but not at its loss of it as a public asset (although the Council might question that and presumably regard it as another liability).

You can see the z-plan – or not. Corbelled features. Two round towers. The sculpted knight isn’t Wallace… they insist Aye, we ken, fit exactly IS yer problem, min? Who the rough and ready figure of a knight in a recess is no-one knows. It isn’t Wallace that’s for sure – William Wallace and his dug.  It might be Wallace and Gromit. That is a joke by the way… in case the pedantic echo is still on my case. Some think it came from the nearby St Nicholas graveyard. Whatever’s its provenance it is a rude representation of a Scottish knight with his favourite cur by his feet. He used to hold a sword – the knight not the dug that was made from a bent bit of metal. Definitely not worthy of The Wallace. Who he was we probably shall never know. Wouldn’t it be grand if it turned out his name was actually Wallace. He’s been broken and repaired and painted and broken and painted and repaired and broken.

A remaining armorial panel is not in the finest condition but at least it’s remaining.

Gunport quatrefoil.

The walls had originally been harled and presumable painted in the old Scots tradition. As of March this year planning permission for a change of use from residential dwelling to mixed use as a community cafe and office was being sought. The Wallace Tower which has undergone so many guises including lodging house, bar, tobacconist, snuff merchants was once upon a time a council house, gadzooks, rented out, controversially, to someone who would later become a councillor and Provost. It surprised some Aberdonians that the rent for such a unique cooncil hoose was the same as for ‘any other three-bedroomed council house in the city.‘ (The Herald 3 Oct 1996) but when this tenant vacated the Tower no-one else was given the chance to rent it but we were into the era of selling off council homes so the council did well to avoid falling into that trap with the Wallace Tower. http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/12023249.Convoluted_background_to_portrait_of_provost_who_had_listed_council_house/ I’ve been inside the Wallace Tower once or twice and it wasn’t particularly attractive as a home – stairs to everywhere and fitted out in 1970s drab but that is just decoration and doesn’t detract from its importance as a medieval tower-house. There is no question the Wallace Tower is a ‘lost gem’. It lies forlorn and unused. Largely ignored. Unwanted or rather unaffordable for those who would love to bring it back to life.

February 14, 2015

It was a dog of a day but Muse’s plans for Marischal Square were given the bird

 

Marischal Square

 

It was a dog of a day.

A guy carrying a placard reading

Existentialists Oppose Mindless Civic Vandalism

If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according

to the outcome, he would never begin.

(Dedicated to Jenny Laing and Willie Young 2014/15)

sauntered past.

P1030173

‘Have you got a light mac?’ he asked.

‘No, but I have a dark brown raincoat,’ I replied.

‘That makes two of us,’ he said as he trudged away to gaze meaningfully up at the magnificent frontage of Marischal College.

He looked familiar. Like a man who was once Chief Executive of Aberdeen City Council. I said to him one time,  Marischal College should become the council HQ. He turned to me and from the side of his mouth mumbled something along the lines of,

I dinnae really like it.

Happily he is no longer Chief Executive and Marischal College is the council HQ but that’s not where the story ends. Local government is like a cesspool. It is infested with the kind of low life attracted to cess pools. As Titania once said in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, shit rises to the top.

People, several hundreds, were gathered to voice their opposition to those miserable plans to destroy Aberdeen city centre from Muse Developments.

The people gathered around the tenacious old warrior Robert the Bruce were looking for a fight. Eyes turned to the Town House – was he there? Was Willie Young in there looking out at us looking in? sneering?

P1030171

People expressed incredulity that anyone in their right mind would support the Muse proposals.

They say money doesn’t smell, said one, I sometimes wonder.

Willie Young

Willie Young Wanted

the banners read. Only in a manner of speaking. No-one there today wanted him in a good sense.

Party dogma has been driving this agenda.

A list of councillors in favour of snuffing out all vestiges of a civic square was read out.

In another time the gibbets would have been erected but Aberdeen is a peaceful city. The miscreants were let off lightly – instead of rotten tomatoes their names were received with boos.

Some were booed louder, much louder than others.

Several names were greeted with,  fa?  Those councillors you find everywhere -the ones no-one has ever heard of – they just turn up and pocket the cash, keep schtum, don’t rock any boats – play the role of their party’s bitches, vote when told when and how and trust no-one will notice next election time. They got off lightly in the booing stakes.

But not all.

It’s clear some councillors are in the dog-house as far as the voters gathered there today were concerned. They don’t reckon them at all and these guys will be hounded next time they present their credentials to the public.

Biggest boos of the day were given to Alan Donnelly, Yvonne Allan, Lesley Dunbar, Ramsay Milne (big time), Neil Cooney (big time), Len Ironside (big time), Marie Boulton (big time), Fraser Forsyth (big time), Barney Crockett (BIG BIG time), Jenny Laing (GIANT BIG time), Willie Young (SCREAMINGLY LOUD ENORMOUSLY BIG time).

There aint no sanity clause might have been written for Aberdeen City Council. This local authority has apparently drawn up a contract that not only sells off public space but agrees to pay the developer compensation in the event they cannot lease out all its retail outlets in what was council land.

I don’t believe it – do you? No-one in their right mind would sign that off?

Sacking is too good for these individuals.

In a dog-eat-dog world Aberdeen has been sold a pup.

A real dog’s breakfast of a deal for the city.

There are more dog-fights to come – in the council chamber, on the pages of the local newspaper and across the airwaves on local radio stations over this.

People are going nowhere.

As the great man once said,

Common sense always speaks too late. Common sense is the guy who tells you ought to have had your brakes relined last week before you smashed a front end this week.

As he went on to say,

Such is the brutalization of commercial ethics in this country that no one can feel anything more delicate than the velvety touch of a soft buck.

willie young

I looked at the banner billowing in the breeze. Willie Young’s face gazed out over his accusers.

The moment a man talks about one commercial development being essential that’s proof he’s fresh out of ideas.

Provost Skene's House Enjoy it while you can

Provost Skene’s House
Enjoy it while you can

January 9, 2015

The Great Marischal Square Cornswaggle – 3D

The people of Aberdeen have been cornswaggled by their council AGAIN.

The big lie that was Marischal Square is exposed.

 

pinnacle visualisation

 

There is no square. There probably never was any intention of creating a square, by any definition.

We were duped. We were wary of their promises but were duped by that old trick of the public consultation. Look where that’s taken us.

Cast your eyes on this projection for how the Muse Development will look once the concrete is poured and the common land, that belongs to everyone in the city, is turned over to a private development for the erection of tawdry towers.

Willie Young

Which means this development was given the full-hearted support of Labour members of the council willingly.

Not one of them recognised the architectural outrage they were about to impose on the city.

willie young

 

Who voted for this abomination?

For:

Labour: Ramsay Milne, George Adam (Lord Provost), Jenny Laing, Angela Taylor, Willie Young, Barney Crockett, Neil Cooney, Len Ironside, Ross Grant, Graham Lawrence, Tauqueer Malik, Yvonne Allan, Scott Carle, Lesley Dunbar, Jean Morrison, Nathan Morrison, Gordon Graham. SNP: Graham Dickson. Independents: Marie Boulton, Andy Finlayson, John Reynolds, Fraser Forsyth. Conservatives: Alan Donnelly (23)

Against:

SNP: Bill Cormie, Muriel Jaffrey, Callum McCaig, Gordon Townson, Gil Samarai, Sandy Stuart, Andrew May, Jim Kiddie, Jim Noble, Jackie Dunbar, David Cameron, Kirsty Blackman. Liberal Democrat: Jennifer Stewart, Martin Greig, Aileen Malone, Ian Yuill, Steve Delaney. Conservatives: Ross Thomson. (18)

 

Bring on the next election

 

October 9, 2014

Now you see it – now you don’t – Marischal Square

 

The vote was taken at once, and it was agreed by an overwhelming majority that rats were comrades.                                                                                                                                                                (Animal farm)

Aberdeen City Council has reinforced the belief that it is surely one of the most disgraceful and sleekit of local authorities.

It has played a dirty game over the development that it once boasted would be Marischal Square – a great opportunity for a civic space it once promised – an idea that captured the mood of the city’s citizens browned off by a recent diet of lacklustre plans lacking in ambition and confidence.

Did they say square? They did. Did. Not any more. Because square there aint. Unless you follow the logic of Cllr Boulton who, in reply to being challenged on the great disappearing square, muttered something along the lines of – the whole area is a kind of square.

 The erm, Square

Quite.

There used to be a distinctive old street there called Broad Street. Lord Byron, Geordie Gordon, bade there as a child. The old Aberdeen Journals occupied a large property there and Bissets bookshop was there at the other end. There never used to be a square and there sure as hell isn’t going to be one in the near future. Not until these eejits running the council are dead and buried.

So square is now a former concept of a square. This wonderful civic square that would become a hub (councils love the term hub) for city folk and so the idea of Marischal Square was born – no not born, conceived.

Then the council had a think and it thought – hey min there’s nae cash in an empty space.

Come on you didn’t think they’d stick to their word – did you?

 COUNCILLORS'  BRAIN

Average councillor brain

There’s been a lot of talk – encouraging the public to get involved, implying citizens’ views would be taken note of in drawing up the final design. That is until people said,

Yes we want a square – ken fit I mean, min?

Well you ken fit want gets.

It is clear the Labour-led coalition which includes a Tory and Independents while happy to provide a blank sheet for the developers eager to build shops, offices and a hotel is less interested in what the people of the city want. Did I say less interested? Not interested.

Of course councils ignoring the wishes of the people is not a new phenomenon but disappointing nevertheless whenever it occurs and when it doesn’t even try to modify the commercial aspects of the design as a sop to public opinion.

The final decision was taken away from the Planning Committee and put to full council to ensure the commercial proposal went through, as councillors would be more or less voting along party lines. This was nothing short of politicising the scheme and a scandalous manipulation of power on a project that is so controversial.

Cllr Willie Young is reported to have indicated on July 17th this year that the decision had already been taken to go ahead with the Muse development causing consternation among opposition councillors opposed to the deal.

Squares are good

Squares are good

Squares were good

Squares were good

Squares no good

Squares no good

Squares were good but concrete is better

 

What we want is concrete and more concrete. Can’t get enough concrete. Our aim is to concrete over Aberdeen. Concrete is money. Fill the mouths of those who dare to speak out with concrete. That’ll shut them up.

Cllr Jenny Laing tells the world this vibrant developments of offices and shops will prove that Aberdeen is open for business, as if one of the most economically dynamic areas of the UK isn’t already open and doing a grand line in business.

Do people actually vote for these people who speak in banalities?

ACC ratings

Aberdeen Evening Express

Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure.

On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility.

Contrary to what the Labour group say there is nothing , absolutely nothing in this design to attract people into the city. On the other hand a large photogenic square would most definitely become a tourist attraction as well as a potential gathering place and area for music and entertainment. Think of what some photographs of a fine square with the magnificent Marischal College, the second largest granite building in the world,  in the background and those fine old properties of Upper Kirkgate along one side, would do to enhance the attractiveness of Aberdeen.

Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer – except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs.

August 6, 2014

Keep it Simple Aberdeen. Simply a Square.

Marischal College

Keep it simple Aberdeen City Council.

You started this by talking about a civic square – Marischal Square.

Now deliver on your word.

Nothing more. Nothing less. A wonderful large and photogenic

Marischal Square.

Thanks for voting folks. Result of the poll, completely unscientific and none the worse for that, is 97% for an open square and 3% for the proposed Muse development.

It doesn’t prove anything other than people who are interested in Aberdeen’s architecture and how the city develops who read this blog are overwhelmingly against putting crass commercialism before preserving the little piece of magnificence there is in the city.

I hope Aberdeen City Council takes notice but I’ve been around long enough to know that other factors influence its members and permanent staff that have nothing to do with doing the decent and aesthetic considerations.

 

 

 

July 9, 2014

Build around not through and we can have Marischal Square

Aberdeen City Council is totally wrong in its outrageously misleading development of Broad Street – initially bandied around as the formation of a civic square fronting Marischal College.

There is no doubt the spec for the development was drawn up entirely with commercialisation in mind and the public consultation was the usual tokenistic gesture politics for surely there never was any intention to modify economic  priorities  with anything as prosaic as public opinion.  

It is clear that while Aberdeen City Council is happy to provide a blank sheet for the creation of shops, offices, parking  and a hotel it is less interested (uninterested) in what the people of the city want.

Of course councils ignoring peoples’ wishes is hardly a new phenomenon but it is disappointing when it occurs without even the suggestion of any sop to popular opinion.

Contrary to what the Labour group says there is nothing, absolutely nothing in this design to attract people into the city. On the other hand a large photogenic square would most definitely become a tourist attraction as well as a potential hub for local people.  Think of what social media could do to spread images of Aberdeen’s fine civic square with the backdrop of the magnificent Marischal College. Wouldn’t that enhance the attractiveness of Aberdeen?

This development used to be referred to as Marischal Square. Now there is NO SQUARE – instead there is a bog-standard street to be built – and not even a broad one despite being on Broad Street.

But there is a compromise that the council should grasp.

Create a square, or rectangle, from the old St Nix to Upper Kirkgate and along the Flourmill Lane, preserving Provost Skene’s House, with commercial properties. Instead of building over the whole area buildings would surround it. This would result in an open public space facing Marischal College. Such a space would enhance the attractiveness of any hotel fronting an open area instead of into a narrow street.

Surely it is time for the council to listen to its critics over this debacle. It’s not so long ago several of its members were very vocally critical over the awful proposals for Union Terrace Gardens but this is as bad and here we find the Labour group are poachers turned gamekeepers.

You are wrong Jenny Laing, you are wrong Willie Young  – Aberdeen Civic Society and the thousands of people who provided you with their sensible views are correct. In fact you should both be thoroughly ashamed of your small-minded approach to what is a unique opportunity to lay down a real legacy for the city. It speaks volumes that you can’t see this.

Shops, offices, hotel in green. Marischal Square in orange.

Shops, offices, hotel in green. Marischal Square in orange.

 

https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/the-marischal-odeon-or-gone-with-the-wind-a-muse-and-council-joint-production

https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/move-along-now-nothing-to-see-here-aberdeens-latest-civic-square-debacle

https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/the-card-square-project-marishchal-goes-phut

May 21, 2014

The Marischal Odeon or Gone with the Wind: A Muse and Council Joint Production

The controversial £107million plan by Muse Development, part of the Morgan Sindall Group, to build a block of shops, car parks, offices and hotel in front of Marischal College in Aberdeen has been lodged with the council and is so awful it is pretty well certain to be given the green light.

The common good land is about to be leased to private developers for the next 35 years to do with as they please. While local opinion is for tearing down St Nicholas House and having no building replacing it thereby creating a large open square to front Marischal College Aberdeen council and the developers are pushing ahead with commercialising the space. Let us hope that 35 years down the line it doesn’t get passed on from one private leaseholder to another until eventually the land is lost to the public. Not that this would ever happen. Of course that has never happened. No of course not.

Various consultations have taken place and some 4000 opinions provided which Muse said have been noted. Well all I can say is you will be hard pressed to detect much alteration in their plans.

Try as I might to open the detailed plans on the council website I failed but at least I had the council press release to reassure me how much the new build will improve the site ‘once dominated by the former council headquarters building St Nicholas House.’

I was more successful finding a link to the Final Report on Pedestrian Level Wind, doesn’t sound like much fun, and discovered the council’s reassurances were less than convincing.

Take a keek at this
http://planning.aberdeencity.gov.uk/docs/showimage.asp?j=140698&index=122914

Wind analysis of the site highlighted a ‘relatively windy microclimate at ground level’ in parts of the area – nearest Union Street – the result of wind ‘blowing around the St Nicholas House building, which is comparatively tall in relation to the surrounding buildings.’

Hold that thought as you check out the picture showing a model of the proposal and absorb its height in relation to surrounding buildings.

According to the Report around the 469 year old Provost Skene’s House it will become significantly windier because wind will be channelled between it and the proposed hotel. Conversely it argued that with more tall buildings the southeast area, around the rapidly disappearing St Nicholas House, would become less windy – losing the wind tunnel impact of St Nix.

The Report envisaged potential problems for pedestrians moving to and from the north and west of the site and suggested this might be dealt with by ‘solid or porous side-screens or recessing the entrances into the building.’

Landscaping would provide other types of screening. I think they mean shrubberies and trees but possibly more screens to
‘create suitable conditions for sitting.’

To avoid being rocketed into space people occupying the roof terraces would have to be sheltered by high balustrades or yet more screens and planting – and possibly guy ropes.

All of the above were put forward as mitigating measures for everyday breezes off the North Sea which are a feature of the Castelgate and Broad Street. When wind levels increase, as they do quite often in this part, then it’ll be a case of haud ontae yer hats folks because you can expect something ‘in excess of Beaufort Force 7’ that’s gale force, around the proposed pedestrianised corner, near to Provost Skene’s which ‘would cause pedestrians to experience difficulty walking’ Nae reading the P & J wi a cappuccino then – small comforts there. But just to be on the safe side you won’t be allowed access when winds get up – ‘restricted access during the windiest times during the year.’ Occasionally winds reach Beaufort Force 8 in this area.

So as well as having their access restricted when the wind blows the good folk of Aberdeen will be subjected to frequent bad hair days when venturing through Muse’s world bearing in mind Aberdeen is windier than many other parts of the UK.

For your information wind levels are classified according to levels of ‘comfort’ for ‘business walking’, ‘carpark/roadway’, ‘leisure walking’, ‘standing/entrance’, ‘sitting.’

Business walking you’ll appreciate means not hanging around but keeping up a steady pace, possibly while carrying a briefcase or other business accoutrements but almost certainly not soliciting with a nonchalant swagger. It is possibly advisable to do the business walk when approaching or circumnavigating Provost Skene’s House to cope with serious wind problems in its vicinity although with the wind at your back you may not require oxygen. It should be added at this juncture that if the proposed hotel were not erected here then wind wouldn’t be an issue but it will be – unless of course Provost Skene’s is demolished which would resolve the wee issue of a wind tunnel between it and the hotel. Business is business after all.

A heids doon fecht wi a nor’easterly isn’t what most folk expected when the council promised a pedestrianised area for leisure and pleasure – brisk walking being the main activity it would seem.

Oh well, there’s always the screens. Sounds like a promising business venture for councillor Swick. They’ll be needing so many screens when this proposal gets the thumbs up it can only be called the Marischal Odeon.

There’s been a lot of wind expended over this project with lots more to come. The bottom line is there’s a strong desire for a very large open square fronting Marischal College. This is not what Aberdeen Council wants because while thousands aired their opinions its money that talks in the end.

With a choice between what the people of Aberdeen want and multinational businesses the council has chosen business all the way.

Councillor Willie Young was quoted in the Press & Journal 17 May as saying
‘Some people who have responded have misunderstood what the consultation was about.
‘The council entered into a binding legal agreement with Muse on a leaseback basis.
‘It was never for the council to determine that it would be an open space – it’s a commercial space.’

Actually it isn’t a commercial space it is common good land and belongs to the people of Aberdeen.

https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/move-along-now-nothing-to-see-here-aberdeens-latest-civic-square-debacle/

https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/the-card-square-project-marishchal-goes-phut/

April 7, 2014

Move along now, nothing to see here – Aberdeen’s latest Civic Square debacle

marischal square plan 1

REVEALED! the latest vision aiming to regenerate Aberdeen city centre.

Yes plans for the hugely anticipated Marischal Square is moving on apace and it is worrying.

The publicity comes studded with those all-too familiar V words promising us a vibrant vision no less. Let me add a V or two of my own  – vacuous, vile, vulgar, very vulgar, vomitory.

Vibrant is usually a tag attached to something decidedly un-vibrant, hence the need for a tag to persuade people the emperor really is wearing clothes. For vibrant read bog-standard,  unexceptional and ordinary, very, very ordinary and here, dated designs.

marischal college old pic (2)

Marischal College is a magnificent building, world-class, a testament to the granite masons who sawed, carved and polished its fabulous frontage. It is the second largest granite building in the world and size matters in these things. It is the worthy public face of the city that has become Scotland’s economic powerhouse, a role reluctantly shouldered and modestly underplayed by the players who should be using the current economic climate to highlight its best features.

Brasov

Brasov

Consider Marischal College as the backdrop to a large expanse of nothingness but charm and wonder, let’s call it a square, in which people could congregate and marvel at the granite tour de force before them – this square would become a magnet for locals and visitors alike – on a par with squares in, and let’s be modest here, Brasov, Nuremberg and Sibiu.

Nuremberg

Nuremberg

 

Sibiu, Romania

Sibiu, Romania

The current version of the proposal from Muse Developments is to partially conceal Marischal College with dated looking boxy offices, shops and a hotel.

This is risk-averse bog-standard city centre development at its weakest and will convince no-one to come to Aberdeen, instead confirm to exasperated residents of the city and shire that Aberdeen’s decision makers really should not be allowed out on their own but be secured in a place of protection. They are recidivist dullards who never tire of displaying their woeful lack of civic self-confidence.

There have been the usual ‘consultations’ over the Broad Street proposals which has been development-led . What should have been done was to let the public come up with ideas for the gap left by the demolition of the St Nicholas House complex.  The people of the area, not developers, are better placed to inform the council that works for them (supposedly) how best to preserve and flaunt both Marischal and the 16th century Provost Skene’s House. After all the people who live and work in the city are the ones whose lives will be most affected by the changes to this environment. Once it became clear what the majority wanted the concept should have been put out to an international design competition.

Broadgate, later Broad Street, where Lord Byron lived as a child

Broadgate, later Broad Street, where Lord Byron lived as a child

 

What we got was a developer, Muse, ‘incorporating’ we are told the wishes of the public following their initial design.

It is no secret in Aberdeen that people want a square i.e. an open area where they can congregate and absorb the magnificance of Marischal.What they don’t appreciate is having the wool pulled over their eyes by a developer and council banging on about Marischal Square when that is precicelsly what is not being offered.

IT IS NOT A SQUARE – IT IS A STREET – LIKE ANY OTHER ZILLIONS OF STREETS.

marischal plan 2

This ‘public space free from traffic’ is council and Musa otherwise known as a street.

It is a street with hotels, shops and offices – how unique and brilliant a concept is that?

Marischal College will again be mostly hidden and so will the 16th century Provost Skene’s House relegated to a corner at the back much as it was with the St Nicholas House development.

16th century Provost Skene's House

16th century Provost Skene’s House

Where the traffic will go is chaos waiting to happen.

Marie Boulton is an independent councillor and the council’s deputy leader who tells us the plans have reached an ‘exciting stage.’ There are a lot of people who view the refined plans as depressing more than exciting. Nothing Councillor Boulton, nothing about this proposal is in the least exciting.

Don’t believe the propaganda accompanying this latest architectural outrage threatening the city. Pedestrianised shopping streets are ten a penny around the country, around the globe.

Aberdeen had an opportunity to make its mark with a real show stopper of a civic square. If retail and hotel space are essential why couldn’t they be designed to run around an open square instead of closing in the area?

Why can’t the many unused storeys above shops along the length of the decaying magnificence of Unions Street be turned into hotel rooms and offices or even shops?

Regenerate Union Street and create a civic square worthy of the city and Marischal College.

It is clear from statements coming from the council that the very people trusted with responsibility for taking vital decisions affecting the future of Aberdeen  are not up to the job. Is there anyone among them who knows anything about world quality architecture? Anyone of them with ambition? (aside from personal).

Remember the dreadful design chosen for Union Terrace Gardens? Well they haven’t raised the game since that.

The council administration has changed but no lessons have been learned in terms of design or aspiration. This administration for all its criticism of the last one who pushed the misguided Union Terrace Web fiasco are pursuing civic irresponsibility in their own right. Are these people stupid?

Muse Developments controversially became the Labour-led administrations preferred bidder for the Marischal site. There were questions raised at the time over the bid process but it was declared legal by the Court of Session.

marischal plan 3

Last year criticisim was made of Muse’s design to develop Chester’s city centre, their plans described as ‘a missed opportunity to create a high quality and attractive area within the city.’ Quite.

http://www.chesterfirst.co.uk/news/120411/3-000-jobs-but-critics-warn-chester-development-is-missed-opportunity-.aspx

In both cities business backed Muse’s plans in the hope of realising promised economic returns. Should short-term economic interests rather than civic integrity really be the driver in sensitive civic sites? Depressingly Chester’s experience is being repeated in Aberdeen.

Move along now, nothing to see here – nothing bold, nothing striking only a bleak row of boxes cutting through the splendour of Marischal and Skene’s.

Really could there be any design more out of sympathy with these architecturally interesting buildings?

Where is the cultural sensitivity? Where is the architectural merit, a sense of aesthetics in all of this?

Demolition of St Nicholas House complex reveals interesting aspects of Aberdeen

Demolition of St Nicholas House complex reveals interesting aspects of Aberdeen

This is a plan designed for people of a nervous disposition – frightened of change.

If you’re looking for an architectural legacy for Aberdeen’s children and future generations don’t look to this development – there is none.

It would make you weep.

 

Some comments on this proposal.

‘No surprise the Aberdeen Mafia aka HFM have been let loose on yet another swathe of the city. Sorry guys but this is still a truly grim proposal. You are really just replacing like for like in terms of the city scape. Not just the design of the buildings themselves but the whole site strategy – the same windswept square in the centre, blocked from any daylight and surrounded by windfunnels. There have been dozens of student projects that have come up with vastly more enjoyable and viable spaces for this same site.’

‘Reintroducing Guestrow is a nice idea but given the scale, massing and footprint of the new buildings it seems pretty disingenuous. If this is really to be reintegrated into the townscape and street pattern surely the site needs to be broken down further – this is still essentially one large building, mixed-use or not.’

‘Aberdeen city continues to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Aberdeen was one of the most architecturally beautiful cities anywhere in Europe but gradually it is being replaced with poorly designed concrete and steel monstrosities that are not in scale with the surroundings and clash with the design of the historic buildings. It is deeply depressing! We are consulted and then ignored which makes it worse.’

‘Contemporary, stunning, sympathetic, sustainable, long term, visionary, well considered… Some of the things that seem to have been missed with this one.’

‘You say that this is a refined design? i am afraid that it is still failing….a very poor design response to the opportunities presented by this site. What you have produced to date, lacks creativity and shows a complete insensitivity to the adjacent listed buildings. This design proposal is repeating the mistakes of of the 60’s/70’s. We have come a long way since then in our understanding and management of scale, relationship, materials etc.  The architectural solution on this site should be an iconic building which reflects the dynamic nature of the city not some bland compromise which fails to excite. Stop “refining ” your original concept for the site. Scrap it and start again. Employ an outside creative architectural design agency if your in-house people cannot respond to the requirements of this brief . The people of Aberdeen want an exciting aesthetic solution.’