If you were down by the Wallace statue in Aberdeen today for the ceremony, you’ll maybe have noticed a new sign in the wee garden between the big man’s statue and the diminutive effigy of the Little Prinz. This advertising sign is both obtrusive and out of place and visually detracts from the beautiful flower beds that the skills of the dedicated city gardeners have created for civic enjoyment. These adverts are part of “new initiative” to try and raise funds through “sponsorship” that involves tacky banners and other such tat that we will see appear on municipal property over time. We trust that a substantial sum was received for the erection of this advert in a prominent location especially as it appears to have been deliberately placed on a pole to facilitate viewing from the roadway.
We feel that a more discreet and sympathetic placement of the “sponsor” sign would have been possible – and more appropriate – here.
Now lets look a little closer at the environs of the Wallace Triangle. Tiled street signs are a distinctive feature of the City Centre and their heritage and tourist value has been rightly highlighted in the Aberdeen City Centre Development Framework ( ACCDF, a big pdf ). These encaustic tiled signs have been getting repaired / replaced by plastic sham “replica” signs, as highlighted by the OtherAberdeen blog and documented by the dedicated work of the members of the Run Down Aberdeen group (if you haven’t seen Fraser Denholm’s 2011 Run Down Aberdeen documentary, you can watch it for free online here).
So we find the “Union Terrace” sign and if we look a little closer we can see that it is starting to decay, the hand is cracked and some of the tiles are looking shoddy.
… but then we look at the “Rosemount Viaduct” sign and see that it is in a terrible state. This is the sign that citizens and visitors alike see as they wait at the lights to cross from His Majesty’s Theatre / St. Mark’s / Central Library back to Union Terrace. It’s hardly a grand advert for Aberdeen. I suppose that with a chauffeur driven civic car funded from the common good at his disposal, the Lord Provost doesn’t spend much time waiting at pedestrian crossings to notice things like this ;-).
Perhaps the council expect the public won’t notice either, perhaps they expect the public to be looking the other way, distracted by some tinsel show while the very fabric of the city is left to rot – or civic assets are quietly transferred into private hands with minimum fuss and scrutiny ;-).
We would dearly love to see the tiled street signs maintained throughout the city but accept that following decades of poor financial management by successive administrations the city probably doesn’t have the funds to do this. We do not think that the “Alford Place” approach involving fake signs – and poorly executed fakes at that – is the solution. We would hope that those signs that are in prominent locations in the centre could be maintained to help forge an identity for the city and in cases like the ones shown here, why not make the “sponsors” pay for new encaustic tiles? … you get to stick your advert in the public park … you pay for the upkeep of the street signage round the park.