DESPITE its name, the Granite City has some of Scotland’s most beautiful Art Deco buildings, finds Alison Campsie
It may be forever linked to the grey granite which defines the city, but Aberdeen is also home to some fine art deco gems.
From swimming pools to cinemas, Aberdeen was credited with having a forward thinking team of city architects during the 1930s, when post-war creativity channelled exciting new ideas about how residents were to live.
Aberdeen was to benefit from this new way of thinking with a flush of new modernist buildings blessing the city, with designers finding that granite was a natural bedfellow to this bold new look.
BON ACCORD BATHS
The Bon Accord Baths has been described as 1930s baths architecture at its very best. The baths are a rare surviving example of an inter-war public baths in Scotland, with a campaign now underway to take the now dilapidated building into community ownership and revive its charms. Past the austere frontage is an entrance lobby with curved walls lined with sycamore and chrome. The pool is covered with a vaulted roof, which would have flooded natural light onto the water below. Sculptured concrete diving platforms completes the look. It was created by Alexander McRobbie of the City Architects Department.
Considered a social experiment, Rosemount Square was the city architects’ response to the legal need for better housing. A modernist version of the tenement block, it is a heavy nod to work seen in Holland and Austria at the time. This new austerity in architecture could be perfectly expressed using the city’s ample granite resources. The horseshoe of flats, which surrounds a large internal courtyard - a new version of the back court - carries three sculptured panels by Thomas Huxley-Jones, then the head of sculpture at Gray’s School of Art. The panels are said to represent rain, wind and cold.
This 1932 cinema saw its last movie goer a long time ago but, in its heyday, it had the most amazing interior of all the Aberdeen picture houses. It has been said there was one cinema seat for every seven Aberdeen residents – double that than in London during this period. The Capitol, built by A.G.R. Mackenzie, boasted a sparkling granite frontage topped with an elegant pediment. Its Compton theatre organ was the toast of the town. The building is now being turned into an office block, but developers have agreed to keep the original Art Deco frontage.
THE NORTHERN HOTEL
Built in 1937, this building sits like a big liner pointing down Great Northern Road. It’s an A-listed, purpose-built building with the original curved exterior - marked by borad horizontal bands of glazing - still intact. Inside, the ballroom boasts the only violin shaped hall in Scotland - and one of the largest dance floors in Aberdeen.
Now a branch of Slater’s Menswear on Bon Accord Street, it was a car showroom back in the day. It is B-listed thanks to its long curves which take the building into Langstane Place. It has long metal-framed windows and boasts a fine entrance, surrounded by long slim windows, which is topped with a bronze winged lantern and a clock.
Built by the council in the late 1920s to improve the beachfront, the Beach Ballroom is a B-listed Art Deco gem. Finished in a pale glaze with a terracotta octagonal roof, guests can enjoy sea views and dance on a dancefloor which was originally made from Canadian maple and sits on 1,400 springs.