Aberdeen University Students' Union (Former), 11, Gallowgate, Aberdeen

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Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved. © Copyright and database right 2024.

General Details and Location

Name of Building
Aberdeen University Students' Union (Former)
Other Name(s)
2-4 Upper Kirkgate
11, Gallowgate, Aberdeen
Planning Authority
Divisional Area
Reference No
Listing Category
OS Grid Ref
NJ 94180 06488
Location Type
HS Reference No


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.

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. (Historic Scotland)
Building Dates
Late 19th century

Category of Risk and Development History

Category of Risk
Exemptions to State of Risk
Field Visits
29/11/2012, 05/03/2019
Development History
26 November 2003: The Aberdeen Evening Express reports that the student union has been earmarked for closure in June 2004, with replacement facilities created within the King's College grounds. The union is likely to be marketed
3 December 2003: The Aberdeen Citizen repeats the story.
29 November 2012: External inspection finds this large building, now largely empty, in fair general condition. Ground floor shop windows to the Gallowgate elevation are protected by advertising boardings.
5 March 2019: External inspection finds the building mostly vacant but in overall Good condition. A Starbucks occupies one ground floor unit. Upper floors and the other ground floor units remain disused and At Risk.

Guides to Development

Conservation Area
Union Street
Planning Authority Contact
PAC Telephone Number
01224 522246


Current Availability
Not Available
Appointed Agents
Occupancy Type
Present/Former Uses
Name of Owners
Unverified see FAQ on ascertaining ownership
Type of Ownership

Information Services

Additional Contacts/Information Source
Online Resources
Private Halls and Clubs
Original Entry Date
Date of Last Edit