The Cleansing of Marischal College

Another tale from the 'it ain't broke, but we're fixing it anyway' school of thought has emerged in Aberdeen. Our university's dear Marischal College is currently undergoing renovation work to enable a portion of it to house office space for Aberdeen City Council.

It is well known to Aberdonians, but probably to few others, that Marischal College was a very neglected building. When I visited it some years ago teaching still went on within its walls, but the rot had very much set in. The windows looked shabby, the corridors were unkempt, many of the rooms were very cold and institutional, sunlight blocked out by dust and dirt and everything touched by far too many hands over the years.

Still, however, the exterior stonework was never a problem. In their wisdom, however, the City Council have decided to 'clean' it - turning it from a dark-coloured building to its original lighter hue. Imagine such a policy adopted in Edinburgh! It would be a disaster.

Which brings me to my point: buildings are sometimes best when they show their age. Many of the post-Modern buildings which have been compared to Disneyland for their use of traditional styles appear artificial simply because of the cleanness of their fa├žades. For my part, I'd prefer a Marischal College which looks like what it is: a great old building which houses a great old university. Instead the City Council seem determined to create an awful office-block, with the front arch replaced with glass and revolving doors, and the reserved heraldic displays replaced with giant Council logos.

The university should never have allowed this level of abuse.

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