Like so many people the Aberdeen Christmas Village was my first opportunity to get a real impression of the new Marischal Square development in Aberdeen.
When it was first planned, I wrote of my concern that the new buildings would be taller than the St Nicholas House buildings that were opposite Marischal College before
. There was also disappointment because there had been numerous promises of a genuine civic square opposite Marischal College. I know, because I spent some time admiring the architectural model of it.
The visit to the Aberdeen Christmas Market tended to confirm these twin concerns. The area in front of Marischal College is a street, not a square. Indeed, the market with its skating rink, was quite a tight fit between the frontage of Marischal College and the Marischal Square development.
But, it the development is a reality and there is no point in nurturing disappointment about what might have been.
Instead I focussed on the positive and the fact that this site is inching closer to completion. The road has been an untidy work site for far too long. But, we are promised that the new road will be finally be complete in May this year.
While at the Christmas market we took time to explore the public areas of Marischal Square and I must say the overall impression was much more positive than I had expected.
Provost Skene’s House actually looks pretty good in its new setting – albeit that we’re not going to see its revived state until 2019. (Why does everything move so slowly in Aberdeen?)
I can certainly anticipate more people appreciating this historic building in this setting than in the cold, shaded courtyard of St Nicholas House. Sitting outside, on a summer day, with Provost Skene’s House as a backdrop really does sound appealing.
Inside the courtyard of one building is the magnificent new sculpture of Aberdeen’s Leopard. The style is immediately recognisable as being the work of the same sculptor as the famous Kelpies.
It is easy to imagine how this will become quite an attractive location once more units are filled. In an era when every city centre has a certain “sameness” about the retailers and restaurants, it is nice to note that the first unit is a cafe for Aberdeenshire’s Mackie’s Ice Cream.
So, first impressions are positive. I’m sure that Marischal Square will increase footfall in this part of the city, bringing more vibrancy to the area. I hope a way is found to pedestrianise Broad Street and make this space an attractive destination for street art, street theatre and special events.