Disappointment at new Aberdeen civic square

by Ken McEwen, Ken McEwen Public Relations

The good news that we were to lose the much hated eyesore that is St Nicholas House, has turned into disappointment at the proposed replacement.

Previous exhibitions have shown a civic square stretching from the frontage of Marischal College down to Flourmill Lane, containing Provost Skene’s House, one of the oldest buildings in Aberdeen. Around the periphery of this large square, were buildings housing offices, shops and hotels.

Marischal Square

When the hatchet was being taken to the £140 million City Garden plan, the prospect was held up of a civic square in place of St Nicholas House. Not surprisingly, I had assumed this would be something similar to the previous plans for a large open square, surrounded by buildings of a scale in keeping with their neighbours in Upperkirkgate.

The reality as we now see it is a narrow square in front of Marischal College, with decidedly anonymous glass and steel buildings of the type you could find in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle…. well, you get my point. It appears we have lost one massive, anonymous glass-and-concrete building and it is to be replaced by several, less lofty but equally anonymous, glass-and-steel buildings.

The big questions is, will these buildings be tomorrow’s eyesore in 40 years time, just as St Nicholas House was before?

Another disappointment is the way that Provost Skene’s house looks doomed to be boxed in by higher buildings, just as it was by St Nicholas House.

This is such an important development for our city, that it would seem appropriate for the citizens of Aberdeen (and Aberdeenshire, because it is our city too!) should have an opportunity to have some say.

From where I sit, it seems the message would be quite clear.

Aberdeen deserves better. Go and sharpen your pencils and come back with something more inspiring.
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