Shame about the design

While I was a critic of Mareel at first, based entirely on the somewhat imaginative business plan (I still cannot see it can pay its way), I have to say what a positive and upbeat interview the arts development agency boss gave on Radio Shetland’s Tuesday evening programme.

There will indeed be lots on offer for all sorts of non-sporting folk and it has to be said the sporting community in Shetland have had it really good for many years (and why not) even though the looming economic storm clouds look like shrinking this quite a lot, along with everything else.

It sounds like some really great facilities are on the horizon for the arts and music in Shetland and I do hope it gives assistance and a platform for all aspects of Shetland’s arts and music environment.

I also hope it doesn’t overly focus on the traditional iconic Shetland “brand leaders” that can quite easily stand on their own feet. Take for example the terrific job the Vunk Fest folk have done in providing a platform for an exciting mix of rock music and alternative art for all the folk interested in this genre. They seem to have done all this without much or any help at all despite the fact that loads of young folk in Shetland are interested in rock music and the alternative art arena.

Anyway good luck to Mareel, Vunk Fest and any new arts/music experiences that may emerge with the establishment of such a facility. One question remains however: where on earth did the design of such an ugly, grey, drab building come from?

The Lerwick waterfront has undergone a wonderful transformation in recent years and deserves buildings that enrich the amenity of the area from both land and seaborne aspects. The Mareel building looks like a pre-unification East German or Soviet military establishment administraion block or something you would expect to see at the Dounreay nuclear power station.

I never really noticed the design in the consultation/planning stage because I thought the location and its proximity to the new museum, which is a fantastic design that works well from all viewpoints, would influence the design. Not so and as it stands it is a horrible blot on the landscape unless there is a hidden phase to the exterior once it is open and operational? As I see it Mareel could only have been designed by a former KGB/Politbureau military architect or someone interested in securing Banksy’s eye.

Wow! What a canvas Mareel offers Banksy. So on the basis that Shetland will get with the stock Mareel building, a real eyesore and antithesis of anything artistic, there has to be a second phase of Mareel resulting in a real “piece de resistance”. I do hope so and as a great fan and reformed practitioner of graffiti/street art I hope I have guessed the next major project associated with Mareel.

My earlier doubts about Mareel’s business plan didn’t consider this but if Banksy could be enticed across the pond to ply his urban art to Mareel we would have folk flooding into Shetland from all over the world just to see it. He is a global icon and would transform both Mareel and Shetland’s standing in the world. Now that would be an art project to kill for and my contribution of a cheque for £250 is in the post to the arts development agency if they have this little gem under their pillow.

Vic Thomas


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