What makes Pittodrie so special?
Life is short and fragile, we need to hold on to, and enjoy the things we love while we have them. In all things Aberdeen, and Aberdeen FC, one of the things that binds all our supporters together, is that Pittodrie is a special place. It is of course the one stable thing in our football team. The players, the managers, the directors, come and go.
I spent a long time staring at Pittodrie in my younger days, wondering at it’s beauty, and trying to understand what made it work as a piece of design. This is pre The Dick Donald Stand, when it’s vastly differing stands still created a cohesive stadium design. With four floodlights to hold it all together. Who knew? I came to the conclusion, the reason Pittodrie worked, was because it was a small, large stadium.
This in turn, made our club, a small, large club. This is the eighties, before TV money (neoliberalism) destroyed football for clubs like ours. We had a team that could, with the right manager beat anyone, and we had a stadium, that on Pittodrie’s Greatest Night, could scare the life out of Bayern Munich. The Bayern players commenting on Pittodrie afterwards.
The height of Pittodrie
The small large stadium comes from the floodlights. The huge towering and very beautiful beacons. They are the ‘unworldly’, like the steeple on a church or cathedral. Giving us the sense of being part of something much bigger than us. The lights drawing in the congregation from afar. Beaming out their white light, fighting the cold dark North East sky.
Under the lights we are far more at ease as supporters. Far less self self-conscious in the dark, to sing to cheer. The lights light up the pitch, the players, not us. We are also on the beer as it’s an evening game.
The church metaphor is more than a fun connection for football. There are psychological reasons why going to football matches, concerts and church are good for us mentally. Lots of people, part of something bigger, shared experience.
This is also what makes Union Street so special, and does relate to Pittodrie. The sense of scale. Despite it’s disgraceful treatment by councillors for the last decades, the original concept is superb. The width of the street, the straightness, the length, and if we just ignore that monstrosity at The Capital, the height of the street is part of the harmony and balance, that just works. The uniform height of most buildings broken up by church steeples reaching for the sky. Like floodlights do.
Looking at the new stadium, even the 3D video can’t hide, the new stadium isn’t going to be a great experience inside at a game. It’ll be clean, it’ll be modern, but there will be no wow effect. There will be nothing special to it architecturally, no sense of scale, and no sense of wonder, to drag you back, to mystify and beguile young kids, and hook them for life. A generic McStadium.
The new stadium will be a large small stadium, and so the club will become a large small club.
Bringing that back to Union Street. If Pittodrie is Union Street, then Aurora is a new shopping centre. Shiny and exciting at first. Very quickly, tacky and generic, without history or longevity. But it won’t matter, because when it’s too late, those responsible will be long gone.
So enjoy Pittodrie while you’ve got it. Even though it has been very deliberately run into the ground.