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- Category: B
- Date Added: 17/05/1996
- Local Authority: Aberdeen
- Planning Authority: Aberdeen
- Burgh: Aberdeen
National Grid Reference
- NGR: NJ 94180 6488
- Coordinates: 394180, 806488
Late 19th century. 3-storey and attic 'Aberdeen Baronial' university building on prominent corner site with shops at ground. Contains fine series of murals by Robert Sivell and Alberto Morocco (see Notes). Polished granite ashlar with finely tooled dressings. Regular fenestration with chamfered cill courses and string course between 1st and 2nd floor; continuous basket-arched plate glass shop windows at ground. Main entrance at canted SE corner flanked by bipartite ogee-arched windows; canted oriel windows to upper floors; glazed octagonal turret to attic with domed copper roof; stylised machicolated parapet with terminal gablets; gabled ashlar wallhead dormers with exaggerated finials.
8-bay to Upperkirkgate elevation: centre right bay with pierced consoled balcony at 2nd floor; 3-bay wallhead attic storey supporting gabled viewing balcony with finial and ogee roofed octagonal turrets. Symmetrical 11-bay to Gallowgate elevation: canted oriel window to centre bay, as at corner, flanked by dormers.
Timber sash and case plate glass windows. Mansard roof, grey slates; ashlar coped skews; ashlar stacks.
INTERIOR: Sivell's Bar with shallow barrel-vaulted ceiling and proscenium arched stage with geometric mid 20th century railings.
Bar contains fine series of murals (see Notes).
Statement of Special Interest
The former Aberdeen University Student Union building occupies a particularly prominent corner location at the bottom of Upperkirk Gate with sight lines down the length of Broad Street to Castlehill. The building is finely detailed with machicolation, ogee-arched windows and octagonal turret. The continous shopfronts to ground floor are relatively unaltered, helping to anchor the building to its corner site.
The bar contains a series of particularly interesting murals by Robert Sivell. Sivell was born in Paisley in 1888, and studied at the Glasgow School of Art as well as in Paris and Florence, and also worked as an engineer in Canada and America. In 1919 he helped found the Glasgow Society of Painters and Sculptors. He was a renowned and commited figurative painter. The murals were begun in 1938 and completed in 1953, and cover over 1,300 square feet. During this time he was Head of the Painting Department at Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen. He was helped by two of his former pupils, Alberto Morocco (also a renowned mural painter) and Gordon S. Cameron. The panels depict the journey of life, from Creation to Death, including one illustrating the Blitz. The Pastoral panel on the E wall includes portraits of Sivell himself (or at least his back), and his wife and daughter. Sivell retired from the School the following year in 1954. The distinguished Scottish portrait artist and director of the Glasgow School of Art, Sir William O Hutchison, described the work as 'the greatest mural painting carried out in Scotland during this century, and perhaps any other, and one must express the hope that it will be preserved'. The City of Aberdeen Art Gallery hold formative cartoons for the project, as well as some scaled down replicas of the completed paintings.
Chapman and Riley, 'The City and Royal Burgh of Aberdeen - Survey and Plan (1949) p.147; W A Brogden, Aberdeen, An Illustrated Architectural Guide (1986) p.37. Ranald MacInnes, The Aberdeen Guide (1992) p.69.
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