Will development make Marischal College more enclosed?

When Muse Developments and Aviva Investors lodged their detailed plans for Aberdeen’s Marischal Square in May this year it seemed like the developers had won, despite widespread reservations from the public.

We are now told there will be a public enquiry. So does that mean there is a chance to answer public concerns?

At least one councillor has said that the plans are ‘a done deal’, which raises the question – why have an enquiry at all if nothing can change?

I have already expressed my disappointment that the Marischal Square plans. While they may meet the development brief and would be an attractive development almost anywhere in the city centre – are they as ‘world-class’ we would hope for in such an auspicious location?

This, after all, is the area in front of arguably the most iconic sight in Aberdeen – the magnificent Marischal College. The flamboyant granite facade, completed in 1905, is a testament to the skills of Aberdeen’s stone masons and earned Marischal College its status as the second largest granite building in the world.

In the late 1960s, when the St Nicholas House was built opposite Marischal College, the 14-storey tower was placed at right angles to Marischal College frontage and the substantial part of the new building opposite the frontage was restricted to three storeys.

This ensured that the Marischal College was not too enclosed.

proposed Marischal Square, Aberdeen

Now we realise that the Marischal Square plan is also likely to reduce the amount of light reaching the Marischal College frontage, particularly on winter afternoons and summer evenings.

The reason for my concern is that the Marischal Square plan, as currently proposed, will have buildings between five and six storeys, opposite the Marischal College frontage. That will be two to three-storeys taller than that the main Broad Street frontage on the old St Nicholas House.

Of course the floor heights of St Nicholas House and the new buildings may be different, but it seems certain that the Marischal Square buildings, as currently proposed, will be taller.

That surely means Marischal College will be more dominated by the new buildings and low winter afternoon and summer evening sun will be blocked earlier.

Is a darker, more-enclosed Marischal College really what we want?

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