Marischal Square, Aberdeen – Ongoing Development

Marischal Square - Work in Progress...
Almost Complete…

The Marischal Square project (by Muse Developments) on Broad Street is beginning to draw to a close. The exterior is now essentially complete except for a few cladding tiles here and there, the windows are in, and the final form of the property is now well-established.

The project has experienced some push-backs from parts of the community, and as yet, the premises is not fully let, but it has the potential to bring some hard cash to the city. Will the locals buy-into it? That is yet to be seen. However, I am optimistic as ever, and hope that it brings further prestige to the city.

As my principal obsession is with light, I have observed that that the warm evening sun kisses the walls rather beautifully. I am also rather taken-aback by the dark window frames which crisply and precisely puncture the walls.

At present, it is not possible to access the site, and so the photographic opportunities are quite limited. However, I shall be posting further images of this rather interesting space as the site begins to clear.

Please check-out my Instagram feed for further images (some of which are of this project).

Marine Operations Centre, Aberdeen

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Concrete “lighthouse” representing solidity

Built in 2006, on the north side of the River Dee estuary, the Marine Operations Centre was constructed to replace the old Roundhouse which had been in use since 1803. The Centre was designed by SMC Parr Architects, constructed by Sir Robert McAlpine, and won an Aberdeen Civic Society award.

The MOC appears at the southernmost point of the main Aberdeen beach, and sits like an exclamation point, marking the end of this stretch of coastline.

There are two main components to the building.

The white, concrete cylinder shown in the image, represents solidity, and from this position, resembles a light house. This was no accident: it was the architect’s intent. This cylinder houses the stairwell and other amenities.

The remaining section of the building, shown briefly in the image to either side of the cylinder, contains the business area of the premises. This section is glazed throughout and is shaped somewhat like a semicircular sail caught in the wind. According to the architect, this element of the design represents light.

The two elements: solid and light, intersect within the centre of the building.

I have taken many shots of this building over the years. I keep coming back again and again to look at it, but have struggled to connect with it (although I find it beautiful). However, something caught my eye on this visit and it was the presence of the fencing around the property, and the security intercom system. I realise that these measures are in place for security reasons and to protect the people and operations. However, they also keep the good spirits at bay, and make the building appear stand-offish and a little isolated.

Nevertheless, I still find the Centre beautiful from all angles. In the image provided, I have tried to highlight the bright, but weathered, lighthouse element against the protection of the dark and imposing security fencing, and menacing sky.

The Centre is worth visiting (although it’s rarely open to the public, as far as I am aware). I would advise sunrise or sunset / dusk for the best views.

South London

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Stunning Views from the London Eye

This shot was taken from the London Eye in October 2014 during a family visit to the city. Looking south east, and off-centre sits the Park Plaza County Hall Hotel with its chequerboard-like façade. To the right hand side of this in the Reuleaux triangle-shaped building, is its sister: the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel.

The railway tracks to the rear of the hotels lead to the left hand side of the image and Waterloo Station.

In the distance to the left of centre, the tall structure intersecting the horizon is the Strata SE1 Building at Elephant and Castle in Southwark. It is also known as the Razor or Electric Razor on account of its distinctive shape, and in particular the sloping upper portion.

The foreground contains the distinctive tenement buildings of Belvedere Road and Chicheley Street.

The weather that day was mild for the season, and despite the cloud cover in the image, the sky was fairly clear in all other directions. We could see spectacular views far-into the distance and I think that it was the 360 degree view of the city that instantly cured my dislike of heights!

I fell in love with London the moment I arrived, and although we were only there for a few short days, we managed to pack-in a great deal of sight-seeing. I would dearly like to capture some more views of the city from the sky though, and look forward to going back soon…

Aberdeen’s New Business District

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Is this the new business hub?

Situated near to the intersection of Union Street and Holburn Street, this cluster of buildings span a 70 year period of construction within the city of Aberdeen.

Starting in the distance, the building to the left, which is currently under construction, is the Silver Fin. which has been designed by Cooper Cromar architects. It has nine floors of Grade A office space, and four floors of integrated vehicle parking. The pictured view is that of the property rear. The entrance is situated on Union Street. A brand new façade is being constructed, somewhat predictably, in granite.

To the right hand side of the Silver Fin in the image, is another Grade A office space with integrated parking. It has already been completed, but at the time of writing, appears to be uninhabited. The Capitol Building, designed by Keppie Design, in contrast to the Silver Fin, retains it’s original frontage on Union Street, which is that of an elegant 1930s art deco cinema.

Moving closer, the Justice Mill Travelodge is immediately apparent, with its stark black and white exterior and small windows. Designed by local architects, Cumming and Co, it couldn’t contrast more with it’s glass-skinned neighbours if it tried. Both ends of the building are book-ended with butterfly-roofed towers.

Adjacent to the Travelodge is the IQ Building, designed by Richard Murphy Architects. Yet another office premises, this time with an integrated hotel as well as parking. The IQ Building is once again clad in glass. However, in this instance, the walls are stepped down towards the residential area below. At present the premises are being leased to Centrica and Wood Group PSN.

Finally, to the fore is the unmistakable sight of the, now disused, Bon Accord Baths. The curved roof and tall glazed window apertures hide a truly beautiful art deco swimming pool within. The Baths were opened in 1940, and served the city well until the doors were finally closed in 2008 as a result of funding issues. Since then there have been attempts to sell the building, repurpose it, and even bring it back to life. However, in these times of economic uncertainty, it is unlikely to reopen any time soon.

Despite the lack of demand at present for office space within the city, I do feel that once the energy sector strengthens again, this pocket-sized district of the city will jump into life, and become a hub of activity.

Here’s hoping anyway…

The above image was taken from Willowbank Road.

Bridge of Dee, Aberdeen

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Ribbed Arches

The Bridge of Dee is situated towards the south end of the city at the terminus of South Anderson Drive, and despite other additions to the city’s infrastructure, is still a major thoroughfare. It is however a major bottleneck for vehicles especially at peak times, as it only supports one lane of traffic in each direction.

The bridge, unsurprisingly, spans the river Dee, and comprises seven ribbed arches. Constructed of dressed stone, a number of coats of arms are still visible today.

The Bridge of Dee was originally constructed in 1520 with £20,000 of funds bequeathed by prominent Renaissance Bishop, William Elphinstone (1431-1514) who founded Kings College, and drove the restoration of St. Machar’s Cathedral, both of which are situated in Old Aberdeen.

During its lifetime, the bridge has been restored in 1721 and widened in 1841. The widening was coordinated by City Architect, John Smith (1781-1852), who had originally proposed to build a new bridge, however the city council of the time declined.

Until 1832, the bridge was the only access to the city from the south. Plans are afoot to create a new Dee crossing so as to remove the bottleneck at this ancient structure, however, nothing has so far been crystallised.

When the water level in the river permits, it is possible to walk under the first arch through to the other side, as part of a much longer riverside walk along the Dee.

The image shows three of the ribbed arches from the south-side of the structure.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Aberdeen

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Mid-century Modern?

Situated at the busy intersection of North Anderson Drive and Lang Stracht (Long Straight), the church rests upon one of the high points within the city, and has probably been passed by most people who have visited the city on account of the arterial nature of Anderson Drive.

The building was constructed and dedicated in the 1960s and was the first purpose-built LDS church in Aberdeen. The walls are of red brick, regularly punctuated with white windows. The pitched roof was tiled in the 1990s; prior to this it was constructed of copper.

I understand that the church was designed in Salt Lake City. Given the period, this would explain the mid-century modern feel to the exterior.

The building is somewhat hidden behind a larger residential building to the south, and some trees to the north, and so it would be easily missed upon approach were it not for the tall spire.

The spire, which slices-through the large front porch, ensures that the building is clearly identified as a place of worship. A moderately-sized plaque on the front wall is all that indicates that this is an LDS church.

I have been fascinated by this building for many years: since I was a child in fact. I particularly relish the colour palette and textures of the building within its surroundings: the green, red, blue and white, the brick, concrete and stone.

St. Andrew Street Building

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The Imposing Main Entrance

The St. Andrew Street building of the Robert Gordon University (RGU), as it was known, was constructed from granite in around 1908, and is centrally placed within Aberdeen in the Woolmanhill area of the city.

The building is trapezoidal in shape and occupies a whole city block. The main entrance is situated in the centre of the south face on St. Andrew Street (hence the name). However, there are secondary entrances on the remaining elevations of the premises.

The site contains a central courtyard which was, over time, developed into a car park, library and a hall. Vehicular access is via two pends on the north face.

The building has lain unused since the university relocated to the Garthdee site, and was sold to the Sandman Hotel Group in 2014 for development into a four star hotel. As of October 2016, this renovation appears to be underway, with scaffolding cladding the west elevation. Unfortunately, the demand in the city for additional hotel space seems particularly weak a present as a result of the current decline in the oil industry.

The St. Andrew Street premises was home to the Aberdeen College of Education until the 1960s. Latterly, it housed the RGU schools of sciences and computing.

It has been said that the various elevations of the building display varying architectural merits: the south being the most significant. It is certainly the most inspiring to view in my opinion.

The image above shows the area immediately above the south entrance on St. Andrew Street: the view most building users would have been greeted by upon approach.

I have a personal connection to the building: I studied at RGU during the 1990s, and spend many hours within the library, lecture theatres and laboratories. I have very fond memories of the place. It was an establishment of learning, for sure. However, it was also somewhere to meet and socialise with fellow students.

I am glad that the building is not going to be razed, but instead repurposed: it would be a tremendous shame to lose such a large and significant granite building from the city.

However, even as I write, the future of the city and her inhabitants hangs in the balance.

Perhaps it’s too early to know if the St. Andrew Street building will survive. Dark days may still come…

William Krisel’s Palm Springs

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Corrine Krisel and Twin Palms tract house (1957). Photograph by Julius Schulman. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10). Copyright J. Paul Getty Trust.

I recently bought this book as I was already a fan of Midcentury Modern design, and of the photographer, Darren Bradley, who contributed many fantastic images to the publication.

I admit that, prior to reading, I was unfamiliar with the life and works of the prolific architect and landscape designer William Krisel, on whom the book is based.

Krisel’s professional career has extended from the 1950s onwards and during that time it is estimated that he has designed more than 30,000 homes in Southern California including Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.

Part of Krisel’s genius, in my opinion, is that he has been able to take relatively similar designs and modify them in such a way as to make neighbouring homes appear unique through the use of different roofing styles, colour schemes, landscapes and building orientations. This is particularly significant given that Krisel’s focus was mainly on so called “tract” homes built on estates.

Prior to Krisel, such estates would have been created with “cookie-cutter” homes: rows upon rows of the same repetitive and monotonous buildings. Krisel broke that mould. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Sandpiper estate of Palm Desert. These homes were arranged in a circle around a central pool area. Very communal. However each of the properties was still able to retain its own privacy.

Modernism is a philosophy that creates a better way of living through design. It improves one’s appreciation of design and ecology.

– William Krisel

The images throughout the book are provided by a number of photographers. In particular I’m drawn to the “old” versus the “new” images of Southern California.

The historical images were mostly created by, the now late, Julius Shulman. Many of the modern images were provided by the equally talented Darren Bradley. Whilst the Shulman images mainly capture the scenes in his signature black and white style, Bradley’s are bright, vivid and beautifully contrasted.

William Krisel’s Palm Springs – The Language of Modernism was edited by Chris Menrad and Heidi Creighton, both enthusiastic followers of Modernism. Other individuals have contributed photographs, chapters, anecdotes and interviews to the book which ultimately provides a wonderful insight into the life of this pioneer, who is truly under-appreciated outwith Southern California.

ISBN Number: 978-1-4236-4232-9

Published date: 2016