A look at the City Square Short leet

Back in June we noted that the City Square Design Competition to raze Union Terrace Gardens had failed to generate the anticipated level of interest and subsequently we were delighted to see the headline “Union Terrace Gardens Competition ‘silly’ say RIAS” in Architects Journal on 28th July 2011, from which we take the following quote – ‘Once again, the international architectural community has been called upon to legitimise a project of questionable worth and unlikely realisation.’

On reading the City Square PR Article “Designers in line to draw new future for gardens” in the Evening Express of 15th August 2011, we felt moved to comment about some of the things that the EE isn’t telling readers.  We will let others discuss the timetable slippage revealed in the piece and will instead focus on the competition teams and some of what the EE terms their “triumphs“.  We will use the team names sensu EE here (rather than the full team names) and discuss them from the top and then from the right as they appear in the printed article.

So here are some observations on the dreary half-dozen …

WEST 8

The West 8 proposal is given pride of place, yet it is strange to see this presented as a solo effort especially as Archial is involved and have a completed local reference project in the shape of the Aberdeen Harbour Marine Operations Centre.  Perhaps it’s not the done thing to draw attention to any local projects given that the competition jury were scheduled to visit completed projects in August and why visit Fittie when you can be away somewhere else – all expenses paid?

MECANOO

Mecanoo are perhaps best known for the Birmingham City Library.  The following quotes from the Birmingham Mail of 19th Dec 2009 make interesting reading :

Birmingham’s new city library could cost hard-pressed council tax payers a staggering £590 million, it emerged today. The figure is three times the £193 million that the city council has been quoting for two years.

The figures were discussed secretly by the cabinet this week, with officials claiming details were commercially sensitive and should remain confidential.

“The council will borrow £135 million, with interest repayments at £7.5 million a year for 40 years – making a total of £300 million.

But on top of that has to be added £15 million for repaying additional loans taken out by the council plus the £15 million cost of the library project team. The estimates assume that the final cost can be cut by raising £34 million in sponsorship and public subscriptions, although none of this has yet been identified. Failure to raise all of the sponsorship money would bring the final library bill to £412 million.

The council will set aside £3 million a year for maintaining the new building over 60 years, a total of £180 million – making a final sum of £592 million”.

Definitely worth keeping an eye on that one.

DILLIER SCOFIDIO AND RENFRO

Dillier Scofidio and Renfro. While the expected stuff about the High Line in New York comes up, the EE conveniently omits to mention that the High Line owes its existence to the Friends of The High Line, a community based grass roots group that got involved with the disused railway line long before the architects. Keppie gets a wee mention here – you’ll remember them from the Oakbank Business Park development perhaps?

SNØHETTA AND HOSKINS

Where do we start with this team? Ironic that the image shown is from their failed entry in the V&A Design Competition in London – we sort of expected that this might be re-hashed for City Square, but trust this is the last we see of designs that have been rejected elsewhere resurfacing in Aberdeen.

Snøhetta were famously involved in the Turner Contemporary project in Kent, and the following quotes are from Museum Insider :

“The original design, which was commissioned in 2001, was to be situated in the sea next to Margate pier. But the project was cancelled in 2006 amid serious technical difficulties and the cost spiralling from £30 million to £50 million. Building Design revealed in 2006 that Kent County Council spent £6 million on the original proposal, including £2.5 million in design fees, before scrapping the plans. The local authority then decided to sue the Snøhetta-led design team.

The case is now resolved, with Norwegian architect Snøhetta and collaborators Ramboll UK and Davis Langdon agreeing to pay Kent County Council £6 million in an out-of-court settlement over the abandoned design

GUSTAFSON PORTER

Amongst their “Triumphs“, the EE list “Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain”.

The memorial’s U.S. creator, Kathryn Gustafson, said the design had aimed to reflect aspects of Diana’s personality. Her design was picked for the project ahead of 57 other entries.”

Daily Mail, 23rd July 2004 : “Diana Fountain shut after visitors injured in falls

The Financial Times of 21st March 2006 reports that MPs on the Commons Public Accounts Committee considered this fountain “ill-conceived and ill-executed” …

The Commons Public Accounts Committee said on Tuesday it was unfair that the Royal Parks had been “saddled” with paying an estimated £250,000 a year for the upkeep of the memorial, which has had to be closed several times since it was opened in July 2004. The cost of the 210m circular fountain rose from the original budget of £3m to £5.2m.

“This so-called water feature will literally be a drain on the resources of the Royal Parks agency for years to come,” said Edward Leigh, the Committee’s Conservative chairman.

“This is a typical example of the great and good airily embarking on a prestige project which will take away money badly needed for the upkeep of national recreational facilities enjoyed by millions.”

FOSTER & PARTNERS

Again, as with Gustafson Porter, one “Triumph” stands out. Wembley Stadium. Wembley Stadium Costs Soar Towards £1 Billion. Massively overbudget, finished late.

So there you have it, a wee look at some of the folks on the short-list and there’s lots, lots more where this came from.

Advertisements
Posted in Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Aberdeen City Council, ACSEF, Architecture, city gardens project, city square project, planning, Scotland, Union Terrace Gardens | 1 Comment

Another “new initiative” in Aberdeen …

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.

Advertising sign, Wallace Triangle

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.

Decaying tiled street sign

… 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 ;-).

Rosemount Viaduct - although if you didn't know the street name you'd struggle to work it out!

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.

Posted in "Run Down Aberdeen", Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Aberdeen City Council, decaying, Scotland, Union Terrace Gardens | 2 Comments

Moo-nicipal art in Inverurie

We’ve all seen them – ugly, often grubby boxes on the pavement or roadside that contain “stuff” … telephone “stuff”, traffic signalling “stuff” etc. etc. They get rusty, they get negelected they get vandalised … now assuming that we do need to have these items of “street furniture” do they all need to be so drab ?

Box - think its a telephone one - Rennie's Wynd, Aberdeen (June 2011).

Could things be different ?

Of course they could.

We appreciate that these boxes may nominally be “owned” by different entities, but they all form part of the public realm which is ultimately owned by the people and perhaps the people should have an input on how they look.

We have always admired the painted traffic signal boxes in Brisbane which have not only brightened up the streets and helped create greater community identity and pride but have also resulted in actual cost savings (through reduced graffiti cleaning – see detailed report here).  If you want a quick overview, have a look at this youtube video that shows the background to the project.

Anyway, here are a couple that caught our eye on visits to Brisbane.

Regatta Hotel (pre-2011 flood)

Kookaburra

On visiting Inverurie town centre last weekend we were delighted to see that a traffic signal box here has been painted up with a suitably “rural Aberdeenshire” theme!  It’s a real cracker too.

A cheeky surprise on top ...

Some research turned up an article in The Inverurie Herald of 23rd June 2011 “Street art mooves to town” which gives the story of how this one came to be.  In summary, it is the work of local artist Mike Jenkins and was commissioned by Ron Reid (who manages the town farmer’s market) after he had seen painted street furniture in Nova Scotia.

We really like this new feature of Inverurie and we would like to think that it might be something that happens in other communities in the North East and will keep our fingers crossed that we see more popping up elsewhere in Aberdeenshire.

Ideally, we would like to see a scheme like Brisbane’s art force which grows from the grass roots up and features artworks that the community themselves choose to create to tell their story.  The true success of such a scheme is not merely the production of the artwork to decorate the box but the community spirit that it fosters.

Hopefully a scheme in Aberdeenshire might then inspire the city of Aberdeen to embark upon a similar project and help replace grubby grey or green boxes with vibrant pieces of street art.

If you like the idea, why not contact your councillors?

Posted in Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire, Aberdeenshire, Aberdeenshire Council, art, Scotland, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Reid Harlaw – 600 years after the battle

We will not dwell on the history. There was a battle at Harlaw ( or Cath Gairbheach ) 600 years ago which has been written about often.  The ballad Battle o’ Harlaw (which you can listen to here) has been passed from generation to generation and is probably the source for what most folk know of what went on in the Garioch that July day, 600 years ago.

You will find no attempts to glorify the battle or lionise those who fought and fell on this blog, but we think that Harlaw was a major event which deserves to be commemorated. We were indeed pleased to learn that both Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Councils were planning a series of special events to mark the 600th anniversary and were particularly pleased to learn that the six “missing plaques” would be created and affixed to the monument almost 100 years after it was initially erected.

Monument with Bennachie behind (yes, those are the new plaques you can see!)

It came as a shock to find that the public appear to be being excluded from the actual ceremony and wreath-laying at the Harlaw Monument on the 600th anniversary as, according to the Aberdeen Council website :

“The official ceremony and the reception are private and for invited guests only. The site of the Battle of Harlaw monument will open to the public at 3pm so they will be able to view the new interpretation panel.”

We can accept that the reception (in Inverurie, not at the monument) isn’t open to the general public ( although it may well be funded by them 😉 ), but on what grounds are the public being excluded from paying their respects to the fallen at the wreath-laying?

Who drew up the list of invited guests? Who was on that list and why were they there?

The Harlaw Monument is just that – a monument at the side of a minor road with a short layby in front of it nothing much else. Now there’s not much parking room but surely the council could just have said “No parking will be available on site, please walk or cycle to the monument?” You’ve guessed it … one, two, three … This is Aberdeen so they apparently simply decide to exclude the public.

On 24th July 1411 Aberdeen Provost Davidson was in need of the citizens of Aberdeen and they came and they died on the field of Harlaw.

On 24th July 2011 Aberdeen Lord Provost Stephen does not want to be troubled by the presence of citizens.

Well not unless they are his invited guests that is – a wee bit like the buffet he wants to spend £4,000 of Aberdeen’s Common Good Fund on for the unveiling of the portrait of himself for which an additional £10,000 of the Aberdeen Common Good fund was allocated.

Now this raises another important question.  Despite being in Aberdeenshire,  the Harlaw Monument (and its site) is listed as Aberdeen Common Good Land (As revealed by Freedom of Information request ENQ7571 ). Can Aberdeen City Council arbitrarily exclude citizens from their own common good like this?

A citizen informed us that she had contacted the Aberdeen City Council Events team to enquire about attending the wreath-laying ceremony – at the time of writing she had received no response. As the ceremony is tomorrow any response she receives will be too little, too late.

Sniffing about a bit, we started to uncover some interesting facts … initially we came across this blog post from 16th July 2011 which contains some gems. In a section discussing musical provision at the event, we find a letter apparently from the headie at Inverurie Academy :

“The real action is at 1.00pm when transport leaves Inverurie Academy to go to the harlaw monument for the commemoration at 1.15pm. If you could be playing to welcome them as they arrive that would be great, and then a lament at the end as they leave.”

A lament would indeed be most appropriate given the shoddy way in which the general public appear to have been treated.

Before we go on, note that the headie appears to have failed to capitalise the proper noun harlaw – you know Harlaw – the event 600 years ago that we are discussing 😉

We go on to read

“Although the road will be closed it would be ok for you to take your car up to get there before others – I would suggest that if you were there for 1.00pm that would be fine. There is parking available.”

So our earlier concerns about parking were apparently unfounded … the lay-by isn’t very big but tonight we noted that a corner of a park ( that’s what we call fields up here 😉 ) opposite the monument – has already been cut and has two gates open – perhaps the council have arranged for the farmer to provide a convenient parking location?

Mention of the road closure is interesting though this in itself shoud not stop the public from walking or cycling to the monument. On further investigation we find no mentions of a road closure in the list of closures posted on Aberdeenshire Council’s website.

We then came across the some documents from the Battle of Harlaw Action Group and in an action note from their 9th May 2011 meeting we see the following recorded :

“In relation to the road closures, Provost Howatson advised that (1) the Garioch Area Manager had dealt with this and had arranged for the necessary road to be closed from 9am – 4pm, however this may be reduced to a smaller period of time, and (2) they would arrange for the necessary amount of Stewards to be on duty on the day.”

Assuming the road in question is the one past the Harlaw Monument … why has notice of the road closure not been posted on the Aberdeenshire Council website ?

The action notes from the 23rd June 2011 Battle of Harlaw Action Group Meeting show that “Two buses had been booked by Aberdeen City Council, to hold a total of 100 people.” but we are sure that the Common Good funded Aberdeen Civic Car will be out for a run too. We also see that “It was suggested that there may be no requirement for Aberdeenshire Council to book additional buses” … we would love to think that this was because the Aberdeenshire attendees have opted to walk from Inverurie to the monument 😉

One final gem from the 23rd June 2011 Action Note :

“Stella Evans (Corporate Communications Team) advised that she was still progressing the idea of taking a photograph of the Lord Provost beside the grave of Provost Davidson (who died during the Battle of Harlaw) …”

Oh, in the name of the wee man. We don’t know what’s worse here – the perceived cheesy photo opportunity or the fact that the BATTLE OF HARLAW ACTION GROUP find it necessary to put “who died during the Battle of Harlaw” after Provost Davidson’s name.

One of the six new plaques fitted to the monument, this is the Davidson shield

It is sad that the council(s) have seen fit to try and exclude members of the general public from the wreath-laying ceremony. The public may not sport hand-made brown brogues but this is their history too and they have as much right to participate in the commemoration as any  “civic dignatory” or “clan chief“.

Posted in Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire, Aberdeenshire, Aberdeenshire Council, Architecture, history, Scotland | Tagged | 2 Comments

Blundergate, Boilergate, Briefgate & Buffetgate

Aberdeen City Council really just can’t seem to keep itself out of the headlines these days can it? Even for an organisation well used to attracting controversy, July is shaping up to be quite some month – last week we saw the Blundergate, Boilergate, Briefgate and Buffetgate stories come to light and if the council think that these will have blown over by the end of the Trades Fortnight they may well be in for a shock.

BLUNDERGATE

Having initially succeeded in keeping lots of information about the City Square Project (re-branded City Garden Project after a humiliating – and no doubt expensive – PR faux pas in 2010) out of the public eye a series of FoI requests appear to have forced the council into belatedly making some details of the meetings of the City Garden Project Monitoring Group (CGPMG) public.  Minutes and related documents for the March, April and May 2011 meetings duly appeared on the Council website in a redacted form … well a supposedly redacted form anyway (more of which later).

Now most city administrations should have been able to pull off pulling the wool over the public’s eyes without raising a fuss but … yes, you’ve guessed it … THIS IS ABERDEEN and things don’t always happen as expected.

With the redacted minutes on the website, questions were being asked and the Press & Journal of 6th July carried a piece titled New Leader asks: Why blank out members’ names in minutes? in which Councillor Callum McCaig is quoted as saying “It’s most unusual to see council minutes with information blacked out in this regard” …. I have absolutely no idea why this is the case and have no recollection of such a decision being taken” … “As such I have written to the chief executive asking why this has been done and when the decision was taken“.

On the face of it a positive start for Cllr. McCaig – although as council leader he should surely have been “in the loop” on this project beforehand, no? Strange that after this initial piece the P&J don’t seem to have covered this at all.  No time to ponder questions like this though as things started to go downhill rapidly and the ever vigilant OtherAberdeen blog led the way with Bizarre Opaque Transparency from Aberdeen City Council a stunning expose of just how much of a blunder this had been.

Those involved with the City Garden Project possibly thought things would blow over but they were wrong as on 7th July a real hammer blow came when STV Aberdeen broke the story big time revealing the bungled attempts to hide information from the public in  Council fails to conceal minutes from Union Terrace Gardens meetings.

The 8th July issue of the Aberdeen Voice featured a superb  Cloak And Dagger Special  which covers the whole sordid affair.

Without fanfare or apology, the unredacted minutes of the meetings finally appeared on the council website and are now available for the public to read. Public dissection of these documents will continue and there are already growing calls for greater public scrutiny of all aspects of the City Garden Project.

It is interesting that the minutes of  20th May carry an apology from ‘Councillor’ Scott Cassie. In April 2011, facing court proceedings on embezzlement charges, Scott Cassie resigned from the council before pleading guilty to the charges on 28th April.  In fact on 19th May 2011, the very day before the CGPMG meeting from which his apology for absence is minuted, Mr. Cassie was in Aberdeen Sheriff Court where he was sentenced to a year in jail for embezzlement.  The BBC report that after handing down his sentence, Sheriff Edward Savage said “the public expected the highest degree of honesty and probity in elected representatives – You betrayed that trust. It was a serious breach of trust, and the public interest must be protected.

Nothing to see here, no need to mention this in AOCB, no need to propose a replacement. That’s all OK then 😉

BOILERGATE

While the above was happening, there was trouble with a dodgy boiler as the P&J of 6th July informed the public that An Aberdeen councillor and self-employed plumber who is not allowed to work with gas was “involved” in fitting a new boiler at an MSP’s flat … Councillor Hunter was at the centre of an inquiry into allegations that he used falsified documents to show he was qualified to work with gas.  Gas fitting regulations exist for public safety and in Aberdeen, the self-styled “energy capital of Europe“, of all places health and safety should be taken seriously at work and at home.

BRIEFGATE

The CGPMG documents show that it was always the intention to present a design brief for approval by Aberdeen City Council on 29th June 2011.  This was apparently not done, so the full Council have not had the opportunity to approve any such design brief, giving the impression that the Council have lost control of the whole process and are mere passengers. These issues are eloquently presented in an Open Letter to Councillors from Mike Shepherd which appeared in the Aberdeen Voice and, in edited form as “Losing Control” in the letters pages of The Scotsman on 8th July.

Here, we will simply present some quotes from the CGPMG documents, in which we highlight choice content.

CGPMG Minutes 22nd March 2011

“Mr. Brough confirmed that;

The Competition Brief will be approved by the Project Management Board, then submitted to Council for approval, before being issued.  It is anticipated that this approval will be sought at the Council’s 29th June meeting.”

CGPMG Monthly Report April 2011  :

The Design Brief will be submitted to the Aberdeen City Council meeting on 29th June 2011, for endorsement, before it is issued to the short-listed companies“.

CGPMG Monthly Report May 2011 :

“Schedule of key meetings and competition deadlines below;

29th June     Council Meeting      Brief sign-off “

BUFFETGATE

On 8th July it emerged that the Lord Provost wanted to spend £4,000 from the Common Good Fund on a buffet for his chums attending the unveiling of a portrait of himself for which £10,000 had already been allocated from the Common Good.  Now we all know that the LP likes a bit of bling – you’ve seen the gold chain and fur collar – and he billed the taxpayers for £10,000 worth of clothes and we’ve noted in the past how the civic car is funded from Common Good. The LP is quoted in the Evening Express of 8th July as saying “the buffet was a way to repay city backers during his five years in post … numerous people have given their loyalty and support and it is a way of saying thank you … these are citizens and companies who do much for our city, and it all feeds in“.

It will be interesting to see who is on the guest list next June.

No doubt we will hear much about how this is all fine and that the Common Good fund is being used to “uphold the civic dignity“.  We are Moved to Comment that perhaps civic dignity is not measured by the  size of your limousine, by how shiny your brogues are or by how much you spend on a buffet or portrait of the civic leader.  Perhaps better metrics of civic dignity are how a city looks after its citizens in time of need – perhaps citizens should consider whether the earnings from their Common Good should be used to lavish luxury on a political elite or actually used to give a helping hand to the citizens who need it most when times are tough.

So there you have it – Blundergate, Boilergate, Briefgate and Buffetgate – wonder what the next scandal to emerge for the corridors of power in the Granite City will be?

Posted in Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire, ACSEF, city gardens project, city square project, Scotland, Union Terrace Gardens | 3 Comments

Three Cheers for One-legged Jack!

Last week, we posted our first examination of inaccuracy in the Press & Journal.  Today, we wind the clock back to May and present one which is a bit simpler to get and serves to illustrate the depths to which standards at the paper have plunged.

Back on 5th May 2011 we were intrigued to be shown the following item – sadly without byline – in the P&J :

as seen in the P&J 5th May 2011

Amazing! Quite an achievement for a one-legged dog to keep mobile let along continue to not only put in a shift down on the farm but win the prestigious NFU Farm dog of the Year award.

Perhaps this peculiar pooch pogos around the parks of Powys?

Nope.

Far from being one-legged (a figure used twice in the P&J piece), Jack is in fact three-legged having lost one leg following an injury as correctly reported by the BBC on 4th May 2011.

Jack’s achievements are remarkable and we salute this brave dog who is indeed a worthy recipient of his award.

We are, however, concerned that the P&J editorial team allowed this story to go to press. Now while we don’t expect everyone to be au fait with all the details of commercial aircraft as discussed in our previous post, we would hope that the journalists and editorial staff of the Press & Journal were somewhat familiar with canine anatomy. Especially in a paper like the P&J that contains significant agricultural content. Even if they don’t have a dog, they’ve probably seen one and should have some idea of how they move.

If the editorial standards at the P&J are so lax that they can’t get the number of legs on a dog correct, how can we trust the figures they report for the costs of schemes like the CitySquare Project or the alleged level of support for and potential economic benefits of the Trumpton Scheme?

Posted in Aberdeen, media, newspapers, Trump, Union Terrace Gardens | Leave a comment

Trump’s “five-year-old” Boeing 757

First of a series of posts in which we will look at examples of the Press & Journal printing factually incorrect information. So lets get started …

DATE : 21st June 2011  EDITION : Aberdeen

STORY : “Wife to fly in from Paris on new £60m jet” by Catriona Webster (Page 3)

In this story Ms. Webster lavishes praise on Donald Trump’s new

“five year-old plane”

which flew into Aberdeen from New York on 20th June 2011.

This aircraft – which Ms. Webster correctly identifies as a Boeing 757 – is certainly no “five-year-old”Boeing stopped manufacturing the 757 in 2004, and held a special event at their Renton facility in Washington state on 28th October 2004 for the roll out of the 1,050th and final Boeing 757 to mark the end of a very successful commercial aircraft manufacturing programme.

So the newest Boeing 757 in existence is over six years old and Trumpie’s mount, N757AF*, is a lot older than that.

[ * Civil aircraft have registrations just like cars etc. and Trumpie’s jet is registered N757AF (‘N’ being the ICAO prefix identifying it as being from the USA).  Trumpie’s previous mount – a Boeing 727, VP-BDJ was not, however, registered in the US but under the aviation equivalent of a “flag of convenience” in Bermuda. ]

Aircraft like cars can change their registration over time, but each one has a fixed construction number and/or line number allocated to it by the manufacturer.  Trumpie’s new toy is Boeing airframe number 25155 and was the 371st Boeing 757 to be built, being rolled out on 25th April 1991 and making her maiden flight on 21st May 1991 prior to delivery to Denmark’s Sterling Airways on 6th June 1991, where she flew with the registration mark OY-SHA.  Now another wee point for you here, Boeing also historically employ customer codes on their models which relate to the original customer who placed the order and reflect the customer’s specifications … so this particular “frame” is a Boeing 757-200 in general sense but to get more specific it is a Boeing 757-2J4.  “J4” being the code assigned to Sterling Airways.  Sterling Airways went bankrupt and ceased operations in September 1993 and since then this venerable old bird has been around quite a bit, eventually being converted from an airliner to an “executive jet“.

Perhaps most notably, she was used by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen for a time.

Looking at images released following her recent re-fit, she certainly looks luxurious inside but she is certainly not “five-year-old” by any stretch of the imagination.

In summary, the aircraft the Press & Journal describe as being a “five-year-old plane” first flew over 20 years before the date they published this story.

Perhaps we have been a bit boring about Boeing 😉 but we are setting the record straight. The Press & Journal regularly carries stories about the costs and alleged potential economic benefits of various schemes, or the level of support for projects yet if they can’t get simple facts correct can we trust them at all?  In the 21st Century it is easy for the public to check facts and easy for journalists – and their editors – to check facts too.  In the example above, you don’t need to be the king of plane spotters to find out all of the information, you just need an enquiring mind and a willingness to look for information.  We expect – and demand – better from the Press & Journal.  “Journalists” should check facts prior to putting them in their stories and the veracity of those stories should in turn be checked by “editors” prior to publication.

This is the first of a series of Moved to Comment posts where we will examine the accuracy of stories in the Press & Journal. We hope you will find them informative.

Posted in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Environment, Green, media, newspapers, Transport, Trump, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

CitySquare Design Competition fails to generate anticipated level of interest

One hundred and fifty entries!

On the morning of the 21st April 2011, the Press & Journal triumphantly proclaimed that there was Worldwide interest over plan to transform city-centre gardens and stated that “Mr. Reading expects around 150 teams to register an interest in the project before June 13“.

One hundred and fifty One hundred entries!

By the time sister publication the Evening Express appeared on 21st April, despite carrying a headline that there was “Huge interest in city challenge” a new, less ambitious target of 100 teams was being quoted, with Malcolm Reading credited as saying he “expected at least 100 design teams to enter“. Note that all talk is of “teams“, so even at an early stage it was anticipated that there would be collaborative efforts rather than entries from individual practices.

Given the current economic climate and oft-cited lack of design and construction projects, one would think that a competition for any scheme of sufficient merit – especially one on which so much was being spent on PR – would have had no problem in achieving the anticipated expressions of interest from 100 teams.

One hundred and fifty  One hundred  Fifty Five entries! ONLY FIFTY FIVE?

So it came as a great surprise to learn on the 15th June 2011 that the Malcolm Reading Consultants run competition had not only failed to attract the anticipated number of entries but had received notes of interest from a mere 55 teams!

Undaunted the Press & Journal of 16th June told us “dazzling line-up from around the globe bids for £140m project” and went on to fill several column inches boosting the scheme while conveniently opting not to mention the failure to reach the anticipated figure of 150 entries they had trumpeted earlier.

A tale of two cities ?

Ongoing international controversy surrounding the Malcolm Reading Consultants led design competition for the Glasgow School of Art extension could not have helped attract entries to this CitySquare competition.  This saw an unsympathetic design selected for an extension to one of Scotland’s – and arguably Europe’s – most significant pieces of urban architecture (See Nooks & Corners Private Eye No. 1285; Guardian 25th Feb 2011 : “Outcry over Glasgow School of Art extension”).

The following extract from a letter highly respected architectural historian William J.R. Curtis had published in Glasgow Architecture certainly makes interesting reading …

“The recent Council Report on the Holl scheme for the Glasgow School of Art is a preposterous document full of slanted information and half truths. It is not worthy of an open democratic society where transparency should reign. Why are people trying to hide so much in an effort at sliding this totally inadequate architectural project through?? ….

One of the most preposterous features of the Report is its repression of the truth concerning the negative press that the scheme has received.. I have rarely seen anything like this but we are told in this zany document that the media have been ‘laudatory’!! Black is white and up is down..no wonder these folks are having a hard time seeing what the average taxi driver can see, namely that this building is totally out of place and out of scale. The mountains of verbiage in the Report read like spells and incantations, a wish list of all the things that the Holl project is supposed to be but is not. The path to architectural mediocrity is pathed with politically correct intentions. But we are obliged to live in buildings not edifices spun with empty words.

As there is a propaganda effort in the recent Council Report at down-playing the criticism of the Holl scheme in the media, it is important to set the record straight. I am quite used to being the ‘invisible man’ but the Report takes this denial of my widely published and discussed critical positions of the Holl scheme to an extreme: I am quite simply not mentioned at all!! It is a bit like one of those official photos where inconvenient individuals are airbrushed out!!”

Strong words there from Dr. Curtis – different project, different city, but perhaps some similar issues ?

Posted in Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Aberdeen City Council, ACSEF, Architecture, city gardens project, city square project, newspapers, Scotland | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

You’ve Been Trumped Première

Last night I attended the Scottish première of Anthony Baxter’s new documentary You’ve Been Trumped – it’s actually the second time I’ve been to a première in Aberdeen having seen the debut of Fraser Denholm’s Run Down Aberdeen earlier in the year.

Trump’s PR machine have branded Anthony Baxter a “fraud” and his film a “failure“. While Donald Trump may be eminently well qualified to talk about failure having been behind plenty of them (Time Magazine saw fit to publish a list of The Top 10 Donald Trump failures), I contend that on seeing this work few people (outwith the cadre of salaried sycophants Trump surrounds himself with) would consider this film a failure.

If what I witnessed at The Belmont Cinema last night was a failure then I really wonder what a success would look like. If the purpose of documentary film making is to engage the audience and provoke discussion then this was no failure.  I’ve been on the protest marches and walked the ground but what I saw in that film genuinely shocked me. Maybe its different up in Trump-world but here in Aberdeenshire amongst us wee guys on the street the rapturous applause that the director, producer, their film and every one of the residents of Menie received from the audience wasn’t a sign of failure.

In a nutshell, the film has stunning visual images and in places is intercut with scenes from Local Hero to tell the story in a way that is truly something special and will not only engage audiences but potentially change the way that people think about the whole issue. During the screening there were gasps of horror at some of the scenes, clapping at others, one or two laughs and a standing ovation at end.

As I walked down Schoolhill and heard the beat of drums I knew this would be a special evening and on turning into Belmont Street to see the crowds outside the cinema was delighted to see it was the exuberant Guarana Street Drummers who were performing.  I was lucky enough to get there in time to see the VIPs assembled on the green carpet outside the cinema.

Left to Right : Susan Munro (local resident), Walter Forbes (local resident) Molly Forbes (local resident) Anthony Baxter (Director) Sheila Forbes (local resident) Michael Forbes (local resident) Mickey Foote (local resident) Moira Milne (local resident) David Milne (local resident)

This is one of the most powerful pieces of documentary film making I have ever seen.  It is everything that a documentary should be – visually stunning, highly informative and the director goes to great lengths to endeavour to show both sides of the story.  While the cinematography is breathtaking the story itself is heart-breaking but through it all the strength and courage of the residents of Menie is truly inspirational.  To see Susan Munro, Walter Forbes, Molly Forbes, Sheila & Michael Forbes, Mickey Foote, Moira & David Milne assembled together with director Anthony Baxter on the green carpet was really special. To share the experience of the première with them was an honour.

During the screening time and time again I found myself subconsciously thinking about the monumental works of John Pilger in particular his Stealing a Nation (which deals with government machinations to ensure that “inconvenient” natives don’t get in the way of a US airbase) and his most recent work The War You Don’t See which deals with the concept of how “embedded journalists” existing under the threat of being denied access to the war zone can be manipulated by governments.  This has many parallels with how The Trump Organisation deals with the local media here.

With an award-winning documentary film made by a film-maker from North East Scotland about a current issue in Aberdeenshire that’s attracting global attention, many would have expected the local media to have been out in force … but as I often say in these posts this is Aberdeen and the local press opted not to mention the film at all on Friday.

Still Channel 4 News and The Times have seen fit to go where Aberdeen Journals fear to tread and have run articles on the event … and there will be many, many more.

For an up to date and comprehensive review of the whole Menie saga, I strongly recommend reading a copy of  Andy Wightman’s report Donald Trump’s Ego Trip : Lessons For The New Scotland.  In the pages of that report you’ll find the information that you wont see in the local newspapers who would apparently rather peddle property developers PR than engage in real journalism.

So to sum up yes I’ve been opposing this developement since the first time I saw what it involved … and I’d oppose this regardless of the developer involved.  I have written to my councillors and been ignored, I’ve been on the marches and been at the protests so I do think I’ve got a reasonable idea of what is going on yet as I said before what I saw in the film really shocked me.

Fellow Aberdeenshire blogger MisssyM has already posted an excellent and extremely comprehensive review of the movie here, so read this one too and form your own opinion.

P.S. One final little point … we are always told about the over-riding economic benefits that the development brings … yet while watching the film I couldn’t help noticing the shots of Les Taylor heavy plant equipment in action … far from benefiting from a Trump-fuelled economic boost, Mintlaw-based Les Taylor entered administration in January 2011 with the loss of 160 jobs in Buchan – no local economic spin-off there then.

Posted in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Aberdeenshire, Aberdeenshire Council, Environment, Green, media, newspapers, planning, Scotland, Trump | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Moreover, they’re at it again.

Previously, the BBC’s local news link service was the subject of a blogpost which cited duplication (triplication even) of material and extensive use of advertising in this shoddy on-line offering from the BBC – sorry – provided by an external 3rd party service to the BBC.

At 12:30 today (9th June 2011) on the BBC North East Scotland webpage we were presented with the following selection of newsworthy items on other sites :

Oh no! Terror as Aberdeen building collapses !

Hope no one was injured!

Which building?

Has the great Kepplestone Kitchen Collapse happened?

NO.

Clicking on the link we are presented with a stale Evening Express story dating from 7th May 2011

C’mere there’s more ….

One of the other specially selected items also catches the eye :

Firefighters tackle blaze at Former Aberdeen school !

What again? Another one?  Which one? Are there any even left to burn down after the recent spate of suspicious fires in the city?

No new news here though as once again, clicking on the link takes us to a stale story in the Evening Express from 1st June 2011 :

Once again, its shoddy shoddy shoddy work from the BBC’s automated service and posting these stories could have caused unnecessary alarm.

Posted in Aberdeen, bbc, media, newspapers, Scotland | Tagged , | Leave a comment