IHBC 2020 Yearbook

32 Y E A R B O O K 2 0 2 0 by the extravagant plaid-clad visit of George IV to Edinburgh in 1822. The area’s strategic prominence come to the fore once again during WWII when the threat of Nazi invasion from Norway saw fortification of the coastline. Amongst the UK’s best preserved runs of WWII defensive exist in the North East. Following a mid-20th century spell as a holiday resort marketed as the ‘Silver City by the Golden Sands’, that capitalised on the beach and 1930s ballroom, the more recent oil boom from the 1970s thrust Aberdeen forward again as the ‘oil capital of Europe’. Despite the boom, the architectural character of Aberdeen, the ‘Granite City’, remains heavily influenced by its stone, as architectural critic Jonathan Meades explains: In Aberdeen, the extent to which they [the buildings] are unchanged is without peer in Scotland. Indeed without peer in the still just United Kingdom. The lack of decorative stonework certainly makes for austerity, but it is the most magnificent austerity: taught, elegant, surprisingly douce [or sedate], sometimes almost effete, it possesses the restraint of dandyism. Granite’s supreme quality as a building material is that it doesn’t weather. It’s impervious to time and climate. It doesn’t grow old gracefully: it doesn’t grow old at all. It is the stone whose pituitary gland has been excised in some hideous experiment. It makes the case for stasis: it is stasis, forever young. It is a city of brand new buildings that are two or three hundred years old. (From Off-Kilter https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=jxL0_qLJh-0) The pattern of antiquities and architecture of North-East Scotland provides the evidence of communities which have settled, managed and adapted the landscape over centuries to survive. Aberdeenshire Council developed its Historic Asset Management Project (HAMP) from 2013 to record and manage its wealth of historic fabric; a process that has allowed prioritisation of the neediest of monuments and structures. The religious complex at Tullich near Ballater in Royal Deeside, with its Pictish symbol stones and cross slabs is a beneficiary of this strategic approach. The shire has successfully attracted several area-based conservation area regeneration and townscape heritage schemes over the past decade supported by Historic Environment Scotland and the National Lottery accordingly, with the coastal settlements at Banff, Portsoy, Fraserburgh and Peterhead all having received significant levels of investment. Individual conservation projects of note include Banff Castle, Duff House Vinery and the development of ‘The Smiddy’, a silver smithing studio in Banff. The North East of Scotland Preservation Trust’s Portsoy Sail-loft project overcame many practical challenges to deliver a sustainable and meaningful reuse of historic fabric. Likewise, in Aberdeen, conservation area-based investment of funds has seen buildings at risk like the 1872 Tivoli Theatre, a traditional variety theatre by Phipps and Matcham, brought back into active use, while across the city Aberdeen City Heritage Trust has supported the repair of over 300 buildings over the past decade. Union Street, Aberdeen’s historic high street, is currently receiving £2.4 million Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) funding to March 2022. This joint City Council and Historic Environment Scotland initiative forms one part of the city’s ambitious 25-year Aberdeen City Centre Masterplan. The programme takes in redevelopment of Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen’s only significant city-centre green space, creation of a Queens’ Square cultural neighbourhood and other supporting high-profile city-centre activities like Nuart and the Spectra light festival. Aberdeen Art Gallery, with its bold and still controversial roof extension, reopened in 2019 and houses a diverse and important fine art collection. Provost Skene’s House, which dates from the 16th century and includes some of the oldest surviving built fabric in Aberdeen, is currently being conserved and reinterpreted by the City Council. The reopening of the reworked Category A listed Aberdeen Music Hall with its 1822 Greek revival facade, has revitalised the cultural offering in the heart of Union Street. Aberdeen and North East Scotland has a history of change that has required reinvention. It’s a common story that could be told across the UK. As traditional industries mature and new opportunities emerge in the new post-Covid-19 ‘normal’, what are the ramifications for the historic built environment? And how can building conservation provide or contribute to solutions? Douglas Campbell IHBC FSA (Scot) is Aberdeen City Heritage Trust’s project officer (dcampbell@aberdeenheritage. org.uk). Having worked as a building conservation officer for local authorities and a national park in England over a nine-year period, he returned to Scotland in 2004 to help set up and run Aberdeen City Heritage Trust. Civic buildings crafted in granite on Rosemount Viaduct, Aberdeen (Photo: Aberdeen City Heritage Trust)