For a long time I’ve wanted an excuse as a (very) ex-town planner to write about completely useless additions to our public spaces. I came across one on the web today – a ‘black blob’ glass entrance to the great city of Manchester’s central library. You can read all about it here, where the author points out that it cost £3.5 million, has virtually no function, and has to have the word ENTRANCE written in large letters above so people know what it is.

This municipal folly brought to mind one of my home city Aberdeen’s own follies – ‘improvements’ to the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC), shown in this photo, and made some time ago.


A bit of history for non-Aberdonians. You’ll know the city is the ‘offshore oil capital of Europe,’ and a power of good that industry has done for the city and whole area. Shortly after the industry took root its first trade show was held – in tents on a site that turned muddy when it rained. There was widespread agreement that this was a nonsense and the aforementioned AECC was built. Not an architectural masterpiece but it fulfilled a function. Time moved on, it became a little long in the tooth and it was renovated and extended.

Many of the renovations no sensible person could argue with – more exhibition space, better facilities in the permanent building shown in the photo, and an office block that included rented space.

Also part of the changes were the additions shown on the right hand side of the photo, the tower and covered arch.

Here a little explanation is needed.

The main entrance to the centre is under the letters ‘AECC’ you can just about see centre-left on the photo. Vehicles can draw up in front of that area, and there’s a covered walkway to the entrance and reception area beyond. All very sensible.

You can also just see the day-to-day car park for the centre off to the right of the photo, beyond the arch and tower (there are larger car parking areas further away for when there’s a major event on).

First, the tower. When it was built it was heralded as an observation tower and tourist attraction. Visitors would be able to ascend in a lift and see out over the city from the deck at the top. Given the location of the AECC on the city’s northern fringe, I’m not sure you’d get much of a view of the city, although beyond the exhibition halls and tarmacced area around the centre there is an attractive coastline. But, and I need to emphasise this THE TOWER HAS NEVER BEEN OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. The initial reason given, if my memory is correct, was fear of terrorist attacks happening around the time of construction. But they faded and it never opened. The tower’s only use to my knowledge has been for an advertisement that ran up it for a local commercial radio station but long removed.

Now the real cracker, the arch. Entrance to the arch from the outside is at its right hand side, near the tower. Go inside and you are confronted with an escalator. The escalator takes you up, there’s a short walk then another escalator takes you down … to the main entrance and reception area. Apart from looking a bit better than a row of office windows, the arch HAS NO FUNCTION WHATSOEVER. Although I haven’t visited the centre for a while I have never seen anyone use this way in to the centre. Why would you when it just makes your walk to the reception area from the car park twice as long?

Anyhow, the whole nonsense might became a small foot note to local history in a few years’ time as a new exhibition centre is planned in a more sensible location near the city’s airport. Let’s hope that one respects the old architectural dictum that form should follow function.

I nearly wrote this two days ago when Donald Trump issued his latest statement about the offshore wind turbines he believes will blight his new golf course at Menie in Aberdeenshire.

The not-always sensible gene in my brain told me ‘Wait a day or two otherwise you’ll write something you regret.’ It also saved me getting confused with another news story that day, headlined by The Scotsman as

Man who arrived in Scotland with rare fever transferred to London hospital.

Sadly, it wasn’t about the noisy Trump-et but a poor man who has since died of the rare disease he had.

It’s best to let Trump speak for himself. Here’s some of what he said.

  • Their [the RSPB’s] name should be changed to RSKB – “Royal Society for the Killing of Birds” to reflect their pro-wind turbine position
  • Military radar will be totally affected by these massive, ugly and inefficient turbines…..wind turbines compromise national security
  • They are doing it strictly because Alex Salmond wants them to, and Alex Salmond has a death wish for Scotland
  • The golf course I have built is already considered, perhaps, the best in the world
  • The hotel I am planning would likewise be far superior to any hotel in Scotland, England, Ireland and, hopefully, anywhere in Europe
  • Restaurants, hotels and stores are packed to the rafters because of the success of our great golf development
  • Alex Salmond, whose greatest contribution has been to let a Libyan terrorist go home to his friends after bombing Pan Am flight 103
  • Almost as importantly as the destruction of the Scottish environment and landscape, taxes will be raised massively for Scottish taxpayers to pay for Alex’s folly.

It’s difficult to know where to start in analysing this meretricious nonsense. Put at its simplest it re-tells the old, old story of Trump’s superiority in every way to anyone who might threaten his business.

So, the RSPB don’t exist to protect birds but the Donald does. He knows better than the UK military about radar and national security. His golf course and hotel will be the best in Scotland, the UK, Europe…the world. Restaurants, hotels and ‘stores’ in the North east are packed to the rafters already a few months after his golf course opened [They’re not]. Alex Salmond – who I hold no brief for – not only has a death wish for the country he so clearly loves above all else but his greatest achievement has been releasing a Libyan terrorist. And to pay for the one wind farm off Aberdeen that is the cause of Trump’s ill-temper, taxes [that the Scottish Parliament currently has no power to raise] will have to increase massively.

Perhaps the only other thing you need to know about Donald Trump is what I heard the director of the excellent documentary You’ve Been Trumped say when the film was premiered in Aberdeen

In three years [following Trump for the movie] I didn’t hear him say ‘Thank you’ once.

I blogged recently on the Disney-esque signs that had appeared at the entrance to Donald Trump’s Aberdeenshire golf course.  My spies passed the said entrance yesterday and lo and behold report they’ve disappeared.    Something about the fact that they were in breach of the planning permission perhaps, being a mere 83% larger than they should have been.  I hope so.

Incidentally, wonderful as the climate of North East Scotland can be (it’s a sort of contrary thing – when the weather elsewhere in the UK is rubbish it’s often good here, and vice versa) we are shrouded in intense low-lying cloud today.

I do hope the punters who’ve coughed up between £120, locals, and £150, visitors, for a weekday round today at introductory offer prices (code for it’ll cost more later) can see their balls, if you get my meaning.

I’ve resisted the temptation to blog about the big issues pro-and-con raised by Donald Trump’s Menie Links golf course in Aberdeenshire. Others have done it bigger (which is appropriate for a larger-than-life character like The Donald) and better than I can.

I did have a pop a while ago at Trump’s environmental concerns about an offshore wind farm that, if it’s ever built,  just might be visible (with binoculars) from the higher points of his golf course.

Now I see he’s in trouble with the local council planners over the sign you see here (I’ve taken it from the Aberdeen Evening Express web site without asking, naughty boy that I am.  I’ll remove it if they object, and trek out to take one of my own if necessary – I hope for his sake he’s not using G4S for his security staff these days).

The sign is instructive for a number of reasons.

First, although he was given planning permission for a sign 3.27 metres long it’s actually 6 metres in length. But what’s an 83% disparity between friends?  After all it’s only as if The Shard in London was 132 habitable floors high instead of 72.

Then there’s the question of the design, which presumably conforms to some corporate house style knocked up in Manhattan, or more likely Florida.

It’s in shiny black stuff with gold lettering and trim. Of course it is, that spells ‘class’ doesn’t it?

The material might be granite or it might be that waterproof plastic stuff they line shower cubicles with. Never mind that the North East of Scotland does a nice line in granite of its own, with some wonderful grey and pink stone easily available.

Local material might also have dictated a more genuinely classier shape than the rectangle-with-curly-bits-on-the-top that I lack the technical vocabulary to describe.

The curly bits allow space for a presumably faux coat of arms in gold to be inserted above the legend ‘Trump International Golf Links.’ Again, more class. Perhaps the Lord Lyon King of Arms could confirm whether the design has been registered.

Not being a typographer, I don’t know what the typeface used on the sign is. Like the shape of the sign it’s also curly. If it’s choice was ever brainstormed in some design studio I assume their flip chart would have been full of words like ‘hand-written’, ‘quill’, ‘bygone age’, ‘upscale’ and, oh yes, ‘classy.’

Underneath the name of the course is written the word ‘SCOTLAND’ just in case you thought you were in downtown Buenos Aires or Disney World. It’s in capitals of course so you GET THE POINT.

The whole thing is mounted on two rectangular poles, again shiny black. Other mountings are available, like the vernacular dry stane dykes (dry stone walls) that are traditional in the area and are used to great effect in many local signs.

But maybe Trump’s people think a vernacular is some kind of railway you build up the side of a world heritage mountain, improving it no end of course.

I could have taken Mr T to several undertakers in the area that have very similar signs, and to the same effect.

PS Glancing at the photo I’ve just realised that superficially the sign looks like a grand piano dumped down in the middle of nowhere. Seems appropriate.

Renowned environmentalist and protector of the Scottish coastline Donald Trump was reported yesterday to be funding an anti-wind turbine campaign called Communities Against Turbines Scotland (CATS).  He’s upset that offshore turbines may be built within sight (rather distant sight it has to be said) of his new golf course on the Aberdeenshire coast in Scotland.

Speaking from New York to the BBC Mr Trump said

There’s a whole lot of hoop-la about windmills.  They’re horrible looking structures…yadda yadda yadda…

Speaking from Indianapolis about Communities Against Turbines Scotland, George Soriel of the Trump Organisation added

We were very impressed by them…yadda yadda yadda…

Memo to CATS – remember the proverb about the employment of a long spoon should you wish to sup with the old gentleman downstairs.

PS – at the time of writing it’s not clear from their web site if CATS have accepted Trump’s funding or indeed whether he has formally offered it and if so how far his munificence extends