Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Could we Get Smarter with Brutalist buildings?

The famous 'Get Carter' car park which dominates Gateshead's skyline is being demolished to make way for a new supermarket.

Its architect Owen Luder was on good form on Radio 4's Today programme, clear-eyed and refreshingly unsentimental about its loss, in contrast with the huffing and puffing often heard from architects in similar circumstances.

The car park is/was a fine example of concrete Brutalism and like others of its kind - Luder's now-demolished Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth, RobinHood Gardens etc. - it provokes both love and loathing. But not in equal measure - the popular vote is usually about 10 against to 1 in favour.

The problem with replacing the car park in Gateshead is that it is a 'something' which (if the redevelopment is anything like what one expects today - from the Michael Caine architecture of Luder to the Michael McIntyre designs of the average new retail development) is going to be replaced with a 'nothing' that, as Luder pointed out, is unlikely to generate a national news item when knocked down in 30 years' time.

My former CABE colleague Jon Rouse suggested that the car park's helical circulation, combined with the boy racer proclivities of the Geordies, made it ideally suited to creative re-use as a go-kart facility: 'Get Karting'.

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