A £35million project to transform Aberdeen Art Gallery has been hailed as a way of boosting tourism and making “Aberdonians fall in love” with the city once more.
The finishing touches are being made to the gallery ahead of a special preview opening on Saturday, before the doors are thrown open to the public next week.
During a tour of the revamped building yesterday, council leader Jenny Laing said she was confident the gallery would become a “world-class” tourist destination.
It is anticipated around 250,000 visitors will flock to the gallery, Cowdray Hall and Remembrance Hall each year.
As well as restoring the A-listed building, the gallery space has been increased – allowing the number of items on show to rise from 300 to 1,000.
Visitors will also be able to enjoy stunning views of the city skyline from The BP Galleries, which will host three national and international touring exhibitions a year.
The designs proved hugely controversial when first revealed in 2012, with the decision to scrap the marble staircase – and a copper-clad roof – causing outcry.
However, councillors eventually backed the £34.6million project and the first spades hit the ground in March 2015.
And on Saturday, 5,500 people will get a first glimpse of the completed four-year project.
Ms Laing said: “I think this will be a major world-class tourist attraction.
“The art gallery is a major component of the masterplan, and if we want a vibrant city centre and the economic impact of that then these are the sort of projects we need to deliver.
“I think places like the art gallery will not just put Aberdeen on the map to tourists but maybe make people think about living, working and investing in the city itself.”
Fellow co-leader Douglas Lumsden added: “We are trying to encourage people to come visit the region but also for Aberdonians to fall back in love with the city.”
Jo Robinson, VisitScotland’s regional director, said: “The opening offers a real opportunity for civic pride at a time when the Granite City – renowned the world over as Europe’s oil capital – is moving in a new direction, becoming a credible player on Scotland’s leisure tourism stage.
“Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it is the heartbeat of the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire economy, touching every community, generating income, jobs and social change.”
However, opposition Liberal Democrat culture spokesman Martin Greig said he was unimpressed with the look of the building.
“The loss of the original look of the building is a great shame,” he said.
“Skyscrapers and concrete boxes have destroyed the character of the city centre. The integrity of the art gallery facade has been completely undermined by random redesign.
“Our art treasures can speak for themselves and do not need an elaborate over designed building to display them.”
SNP resource spokesman, Councillor Alex Nicoll said: “The city has been robbed of its Art Gallery for far too long, so I’m delighted that it will be open again very soon.
“Sadly, this is not the end of the story as the administration still need to tell us how much money this project has actually cost the people of Aberdeen.”