Wednesday, 21 September 2011

In praise of Neil Baxter and the RIAS!

the intelligent and attractive Neil Baxter - boss of the RIAS
You know, I've been doing a little research today on Neil Baxter, the illustrious head of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland or RIAS for short. He came to my attention this morning when he publicly exposed himself to the pretentious, snobbish and elitist modernist hordes on Urban Realm and Twitter by praising and defending the wonderful designs for Dr Donald Trump's new Clubhouse at Menie prepared by servant architect Gareth Hopkins with the assistance of Acanthus Architects based in Torry, a slum near Aberdeen. This is the link to the Scotsman article.

Secretary & Treasurer of the RIAS, Neil was previously principal of his own architectural and interpretation consultancy and Development Director of GBPT. He has lectured on urbanism, written for The Daily Telegraph, Herald, Sunday Herald, Homes & Interiors and the AJ, and is a frequent media spokesman so he knows his onions, so to speak.

Neil wrote 'The Wee Green Book', a history of Glasgow Green, co-authored Pat Lally’s 'Lazarus Only Done it Once', edited the Glasgow medieval history, 'A Tale of Two Towns', the monograph 'Matt Steele, Architect, A Biography' and 'A Life in Cities', the autobiography of David Mackay (MBM, Barcelona). In May 2008, Neil received Glasgow’s Lord Provost’s Award for services to heritage. All in all, his CV is an impressive mouthful and he is more than qualified to speak on matters of design.

Now I have to say at the outset that I am not stalking Neil but he does seem like a nice chap - good looking and intelligent, with extraordinary taste and judgement. He is also very brave as his defence of this marvellous building will surely bring calls for his resignation as a betrayer, a whited sepulchre and a modernist denier. Humph! More likely he will be called to the Trump HQ at Menie to prostate himself at the feet of the great one himself and be lathered with sumptuous gifts. For my part, I wish Neil all the best and commend him and his organisation to everyone who is interested in Scottish Architecture and Planning.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Menie Clubhouse - a work of genius

the totally magnificent Gareth Hoskins design for Dr Donald Trump's Clubhouse at Menie
You know, it was only the other day that I was recounting the wonderful stream of good news from Aberdeen where just north of the city, God's Own Golf Course is taking shape at Menie. Today, I have to report the fantastically breathtaking news that the designs for the new Clubhouse have been announced on Urban Realm, the premier portal for news and gossip about planning, architecture and the dynamic Scottish property industry.

Well! I'm sure you're all completely taken aback by the magnificence of the design by Gareth Hopkins, Trump's supine architect. The inspiration for this was obviously one of these old secondary schools from Ellon or some other Aberdeenshire slum but it has been updated with modern detailing which will give it 'visual and tactile clues'. A clever move on young Gareth's part and clearly a strategic move towards winning work from the Prince's Foundation at some of their Theme Park developments around the country.

Of course the design has been criticised by the usual bunch of elitist know-all architects who are all blind to the critical excellence of the design. You can read the comments on Urban Realm here - absurd I know - but the interesting fact is that Gareth Hopkins has for some strange but generous reason stated that this is the work of Acanthus Architects, a firm that I have never heard of. I assume that this is a made-up name and that they are a figment of the imagination.

All in all, this is great news for Aberdeenshire, for Dr Donald Trump and for Gareth Hopkins whose future as a Theme Park designer is assured. I have put another gold star in my notebook against this project and will sleep happily tonight in the knowledge that there are more good things to come from this neck of the woods. 10/10!

PS A day later, and the Scotsman newspaper's article here is just great too - this guy Neil Baxter knows what he's talking about

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Triple Kirks for the chop! Aberdeen rejoices!

the Triple Kirks development by day
You know, I've been thunderstruck by some of the developments in the past few months across in the great city of Aberdeen. The spectacular God's Own Golf Course takes shape out at Menie, fine tuned by my hero Dr Donald Trump. Union Terrace Gardens is set to be flattened at last - or should I say filled up - but either way it will be an improvement over the rat filled slum that is there at the moment.
the Triple Kirks development by night
But one of the things that has really caught my attention is the proposal by one of the Aberdeen area's greatest ever entrepreneur's, Wee Stewartie Milne! An admirer recently alerted me to the Triple Kirks Development slap bang next to Union Terrace Gardens and I've shown an image of the proposal above - fantastic isn't it? This landmark development will offer 72,000 sq ft of the highest quality Grade A office accommodation right in the heart of Aberdeen City - amazing!
the design approach - that has Zaza Hadid Architects shaking in their TK Maxx trainers
The Triple Kirks were unique in Scotland in being three separate yet adjoining churches sharing a common steeple - the Wee Free and the Episcopalian churches couldn't afford their own steeples so they decided to use the Church of Scotland's one. Now fortunately the original buildings have deteriorated over the years and most were demolished some time ago. Sadly though, the steeple remains and is a blot on the landscape and an impediment to development in the hands of lesser people. But due to the sheer brilliance of Wee Stewartie Milne and his incredibly skilled team of world class architects led by, you guessed it...Halliday Fraser Munro..., an amazing composition of new buildings has been assembled around the old spire. Fantastic! With HFM leading this team, this is a roll out of talent that has world famous starchitects quaking in their boots - I'm reliably informed.

Now I'm sure you are all very wise and worldly people out there so you won't need to be told that when it comes to working on site, the church steeple will be history - demolished in an 'unfortunate accident' so don't think the development will be compromised by this miserable bit of old Aberdeen. Together with the huge retail development proposed for Union Terrace Gardens, this will drive Aberdeen forward and ahead of every other city in Europe. Everything Wee Stewartie Milne touches turns to gold, just like his longstanding involvement in Aberdeen Football Club which saw it just escape relegation last season. It is currently putting in a stellar performance at second bottom of the Scottish Premier League so this is an improvement by any measure.
Wee Stewartie Milne - Doctor of Technology
Personally I look forward to this development being implemented and my hearty congratulations go out to all those involved - a big tick and a gold star in my notebook!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Public art disease found in Coatbridge

the new Andy Scott artwork at Blair Bridge, Coatbridge - bound for the scrapyard I hope
You know, an admirer of mine sent me this nice wee photie of something terrible that has happened at Blair Bridge in Coatbridge next to the Monkland Canal. It's another piece of work by cliché artist Andy Scott, this time commemorating the work of renowned comic book writer Mark Millar, who grew up in the town. The six-metre high steel archway shows a character called Captain Coatbridge and two female superheroes - it was commissioned as part of on-going efforts to regenerate the canal but it looks really out of place to me against the old stonework of the canalside. I hope a lot of you are saying, "Oh no! Not another metal thing-me - please make it go away!"

Andy is probably making a good living producing all these bits of welded up steel - and goodness knows we all have to make a living somehow. I wrote earlier this year that one of his works, positioned on a roundabout, had been successfully destroyed by a drunk driver (fantastic wasn't it?) but unfortunately there is no word of others biting the dust. It's very sad for our nice wee country that we only seem to have one artist - he crops up in Cumbernauld, on the M8 at Baillieston, at Port Glasgow, almost everywhere, including Lomondgate! And because they are all done in the same galvanised finish, they look like bits of motorway signs that have been misplaced. Soon people will be saying that their towns are quite distinctive because they don't have a bit of scrap metal stuck in the middle of a roundabout.

Spare a thought though for poor Andy. I'm sure he is a creative sort of person so it must be really boring for him to be churning the same old stuff out all day long for every commission. So if I can give him a wee bit of advice it would be to stop doing these metal motorway signs and bits of horses and find another look for his stuff.

But in fact you will usually find that town planners are involved in commissioning public art so the blame can be laid at their door. I think this is a disgrace for a profession already on its knees as a result of incompetence by the goons in London and their inability to adopt the wisdom of the market economy in dealing with regeneration. All this public art stuff is a sideshow that the real movers and shakers in this country will avoid at all costs. So my advice to the RTPI Borg is to stop commissioning public art and get on with some real work.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Sensible SEPA - magnificent MAXIM

the totally magnificent and avant guard new home of SEPA at MAXIM business park
Hello friends, colleagues and enemies. I've decided to return to the fray for the next few months to bring you some more of my unique and insightful views on planning, architecture and the Scottish property industry. So much has happened since my last post but I won't go over much of that old ground. Instead I will pick some of the highlights of the year so far. You won't be surprised to hear that one of the most important events was the deal between SEPA (the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) and MAXIM, the totally magnificent business park which I had previously referred to as Eurocentral.

According to the Herald back in July, MAXIM signed SEPA as its anchor tenant after more than six months of talks. It's taken a long time to get to this point but that isn't surprising - a development so magnificent in its cutting edge design and avant-guardness that it hasn't even made it into the pages of most architectural magazines, won't sell out in the first week. That of course is the meaning of avant guard - so 'out there' that the multitude don't even know about it. And I can tell you now that most architectural critics are struggling to find cliches to describe it! It is the work of Keppies of course, a personal favourite of mine and one of Scotland's greatest box ticking and innovative companies, able to beat off any incomers when it comes to procurement, cheap developer-friendly design with an international feel and they are truly thought leaders in the world of greenbelt developments and pushing out the boundaries of the city into useless farm land.

Now SEPA have really nailed their colours to the mobile phone mast this time! The protector of Scotland's environment has chosen an out of town location with endless car parking and easy access to motorways for it's new premises. Remember that one of MAXIM's greatest selling points is that you can go there by car without any worries about congestion or parking! Staff can have barbeques in the woods at lunchtime and help to drive wildlife from land that would be better used for development. Saying no to so-called sustainable but outdated city centre locations by closing offices in East Kilbride and moving 350 workers from Edinburgh, Stirling and Perth is a major slap in the face for the long haired sandal-wearing hippies who favour public transport and other daft ideas. SEPA have risen considerably in my estimation and I'm sure have a great future. Let's hope that other organisations follow their good example.