"Negative and mis-information provided by groups opposed to the project will be monitored so that their actions, which may have negative impact on the project, can be anticipated and the presentation of clear facts and informed opinion made public"
ACSEF City Square Project Communications Strategy
The reactionary policy of ACSEF and Sir Ian Wood to criticism of The City Square Project has been a series of half-hearted ill-informed statements which seek to deny everything or appease everyone, while contradicting previous statements and generally confusing the situation. Rather than counteracting "mis-information" ACSEF are actively producing more and more confusing and contradictory statements about the nature and aims of the project. While dismissing those who oppose the plan as "based on a wholly inaccurate description" or "not fully understanding the plans"and Sir Ian expressing that his "real disappointment is over the confusion and misinformation in the public domain,” ACSEF's statements shed little light on what the plans are, or even that they know them themselves.
Adding to last week's Guggenheim comparison, ACSEF have now put out a release that "the firm behind one of the world’s most famous buildings has shown an interest in contributing to the proposed civic square project in Aberdeen." Not architects Pei, Cobb, Freed and Partners, who designed the series of pyramids but RFR Engineering who executed the design to I. M. Pei's specifications. Given ACSEF and Sir Ian's current penchant for culture and arts it is hardly surprising that they concentrate on the large Pyramid outside the Louvre Gallery, and shy away from the equally impressive Pyramide Inversee which is suspended as a skylight into the Carrousel du Lourve underground shopping mall.
Sealing the announcement, ACSEF claimed "that creating a Scottish Guggenheim or securing a major national gallery or museum was one of its main aspirations for the project", not explaining how this would sit with assurances that "the door is always open to Peacock" exactly. What ACSEF fail to understand is the difference between a "national gallery or museum" and a Contemporary Cultural Space. Aberdeen already has a national gallery in the form of Aberdeen Art Gallery which houses one of the most impressive museum collections in Scotland, and it has been said many times that the Northern Light Contemporary Arts Centre will not just exhibit art, but host a wide range of activities and provide a counterbalance to the traditional Gallery Museum of the Art Gallery and the small grassroots arts initiatives emerging in the city.
ACSEF's board is made up largely of business interests, with a couple of token representatives from the public sector to legitimise their status, as they have no actual funds or legal status. There is no cultural or arts reprentation on the group, which is understandble as ACSEF are the local Economic Forum, tasked with realising "the ambition for the future of the Region and to shape delivery of economic development in Aberdeen City and Shire." Since there have been no examples of any strong economic case for the development, and is aimed squarely at culture and civic use then why is it being steered by the Economic Forum, and not, say, the Cultural or Civic Forums? In
However as former head of Grays School of Art, Stuart MacDonald, points out "We already have plans for an iconic building by world-class architects Brisac Gonzalez, who have come up with a fantastic design for the new Peacock Arts Centre, which respects the landscape of Union Terrace Gardens and is capable of providing, at a reasonable price, an accessible, inclusive venue with the potential to become one of the best public buildings in the whole of Britain.
“If people want a world-class arts centre in Aberdeen, they should vote for the one that’s already on the table,"As well as acting completely outwith their remit for economic development, ACSEF are attempting to ride roughshod over the ten years of work Peacock have put in to developing plans for a world-class contemporary art centre for Aberdeen, and the international competition already won by Edgar Gonzalez of Brisac Gonzalez Architects.
"The project is very real and properly thought through with foresight at every level."
Accenting the unorthadox web-based campaign against the City Square, a post on twitter highlighted the unfortunate use of a live photograph of Annie Lennox used in the City Square Project Brochure advertising a possible use of the square for "celebrations both big and small." The Irony is not lost on Ms Lennox herself who revealed her strong opposition to the scheme in a post on her myspace blog last week. "They clearly “assumed” it would be fine by me.. as it makes it look as if I’m endorsing their vision..when I wasn’t even asked..they just went ahead in any case. Which is precisely what will happen if people don’t become pro active on the issue" was the response posted on her Facebook page and not long after the revelations, the Press and Journal reported that the "glossy brochure for Sir Ian Wood’s City Square plan in Aberdeen which features pop star Annie Lennox is to be scrapped."