Marischal Square, Aberdeen

FOLLOWING the (partial) cleaning of Aberdeen's magnificent Marischal College building, attention turned swiftly to its neighbour, the former council offices at St Nicholas House. A looming 1960s concrete-and-glass throw-up, St Nicholas was rendered obsolete as council officials decanted into the college.

Now virtually demolished, planners have examined ways to turn the area into a civic space. Initial pictures of the development have now been released. A few shortlisted designs were produced last year. 

There are several welcome features. Opening the building to allow access to the historic Provost Skene's House will not only attract visitors, but give it some sense of setting. Previously it appeared as almost an afterthought, lost among a project which only grudgingly tolerated its continued existence.  

If appropriately high-quality materials are used, the Marischal Square concept could well have some enduring merit and even allow for some spill-over benefits to the streets around. But the buildings themselves are unimaginative and, in my view, look slightly dated in design already. 

Usually architects aim for timelessness or fashion: this achieves neither. 

It is, of course, an improvement. It will also create additional retail space, which is a mixed blessing for a city which has already lost much of its retail heart to the Union Square shopping centre development, leaving the city's central thoroughfare - Union Street - looking like a ghost-town. From a more charitable viewpoint, it may - just may - re-centre the city's commercial area. 

The plan will have some impact, but will the buildings outlast St Nicholas House's 45 year record of looming over Aberdeen? I doubt it. 

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