St Nicholas House plans fail to excite

When the City Garden project was shelved by the current administration at Aberdeen City Council, we were urged to shift our focus to the exciting prospect of creating a new civic square in front of Marischal College.

It was, indeed, a potentially exciting vision – not least because it meant the demise of the hated St Nicholas House in all its 1960’s concrete utilitarian severity. Having had to divert our attention from Union Terrace, here was a second chance to create something iconic that would underline the 21st century ambition of our city.

Along with others, I envisaged a square that would feature creative 21st century architecture of the standard needed to complement the magnificence of Marischal College and the historic Provost Skene’s House.

St Nicholas House
Is this really the most inspired architecture we can produce?

So, it was with more than a little disappointment that I have viewed today’s pictures of the proposed development.

Sure, each of them has a city square incorporated in them. But, instead of iconic and creative architecture, we have buildings that could equally well be a new office development in Southampton, Liverpool or Newcastle.

St Nicholas House was the product of following the current vogue, at the time, for tall concrete structures and it tood out for all the wrong reasons. It was neither in sympathy with, nor in creative contrast to the surrounding buildings.

The new proposals are surely repeating the same mistake. They are rather bland iterations of the current architectural vogue. In another 40 years time will they look as shabby and unimaginative as St Nicholas House does now?

Surely we can send the architects back to sharpen their pencils? Or instigate a design competition to elicit some creativity.

For such an important site, we need something that will stand the test of time as an example of top notch 21st century design.
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