Death Star

death star

I am sitting in the pick-up queue at the station, waiting for the Glasgow train, looking up at the dark mass of our new icon, parked ominously on the river’s edge like the Death Star itself. I am trying hard to make sense of what it is and what it will eventually be, but I can’t. Plans, sections, elevations, the understanding and visualising of three dimensions is my trade but still this edifice remains a mystery. I would really like it to work. I do earnestly hope it will be a success and be a talisman of rejuvenation and revitalisation of our beautiful city on the Tay, so long a sad forth in Scotland and the butt of so many jokes. I really do. But try as I might I can’t quite stamp out the scepticism, the growing doubts and the deep unease.

It is hard, almost impossible to express these doubts in some quarters, because so much is invested in the building. It is already an “icon”.  In the age when people are legends before they reach reaching thirty, Nobel peace prizes awarded before any peace work is done, buildings can be iconic before any concrete is poured. My niggling fear is that it will become a concrete folly in a desolate vandalised landscape, with ugly spoilers for seagulls hoping to nest on the ledges, grotesque barriers to discourage would be climbers attempting to scale the “cliff face” and the very real worry that a panel might fall off. This cliff face, which in concept, represents “the long dialogue between earth and water” is made up of cast concrete panels stuck on to the façade. They don’t, as you would expect, run through to the interior. They are unashamedly fake. The building is pretending to be something it isn’t and yet that doesn’t seem to matter. The sloped walls themselves are explained by the architect as a means of drawing people in. Straight walls repel, apparently.  Yet to my eye, the scale and slope on the exterior has a distinctly threatening air about it. It almost frightens me. The interior which is also devoid of any reference to human scale, seems to be a series of anonymous spaces with disturbingly raked walls and absolutely nothing to say about what actually will be in it.

I hope, I do hope , I am wrong. Please tell me I am wrong.

Crawford Mackenzie

2 thoughts on “Death Star

  1. Don’t have a clue about architecture, but looks pretty ugly and unimaginative to me. From the images I have seen it looks as though a giant iceberg – cum inverted ziggurat is about to collide with the Discovery.

  2. Crawford,

    I share your views: you are right. The 21st century architecture of Dundee is of very poor quality overall.
    The 19th century Mill buildings remain superior and have provided some very pleasant spaces and uses when converted.

    I am assured that the ledges are seagull proof. I wonder if the seagulls are aware of that.
    If not, I suspect that it will not be too long before the V&A bears more than a passing resemblance to the Bass Rock.

    I do wonder how the sloping walls will be expressed within the gallery spaces.

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