Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Brasilia of the North

OK, so it's a long time since T Dan Smith had the above as his slogan - however, I and my photographer are descending from our lofty perch to come and have a cheap holiday in other people's architectural misery, before ascending back into our lair outside of The Real World, where we will cackle about it over canapes and obscure vintages. That is, I'm going to Newcastle and Gateshead (with possible excursions to Sunderland and Peterlee) for BD this weekend. Any tips, arguments, recommendations or particular horrors in the comments box will be greatly appreciated.


Blogger Chris Matthews said...

Durham is about 15 minutes on the train from Newcastle - a quick visit to the modernist Students Union & University Bridge is recommended.

3:24 pm  
Blogger Chris Matthews said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:26 pm  
Blogger Chris Matthews said...

This is a better photo

3:26 pm  
Blogger Mr Tear said...

Check out Newton Aycliffe for a planned and managed environment. Its in County Durham and was built following WWII. It was a great place to grow up!

4:56 pm  
Anonymous Lang Rabbie said...

I would be intrigued by your take on Ralph Erskine's Byker housing.

Although claimed by many for "post-modernism", I've long thought that the at the time ground-breaking participative design process with the community to be rehoused seeemed to be a continuation of the Social Democratic tradition of Modernism, rather than an abrupt break.

However I do see it as a determined reaction against the idées reçues of hack Corbusianism that were then prevalent in most local authority architects' teams.

10:12 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Rabbie, that would definitely fit with what I know abt Erskine. There's an AD piece by Charles Jencks on Byker from way back where he's obviously disappointed by the fact it isn't pomo - suggests it would be better with a couple of porticos on it. Twit.

2:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Teesside is only 10mins by train from Darlington (2 stops before Newcastle), where you can take a walk in Thatcher's 'Wilderness'. Marvel at the boundless blandness of call-centre after call-centre after retail park after retail park after call-centre after ... and wonder why the staff car parks are always full, even on weekends, even on Bank Holidays? You can wonder, too, why no-one has, yet, taken up the governement's offer of two grand on their old bangers?


4:05 pm  
Anonymous FrFintonStack said...

"suggests it would be better with a couple of porticos on it. Twit."

A few weeks ago a came across a piece by Leon Krier saying the same thing about Glasgow School of Art.

2:51 am  
Blogger james k thorp said...


It's an odd place.

1:10 pm  
Blogger Tom May said...

Teesside for the retail park wilderness, indeed...

Sunderland - the Basil Spence Civic Centre* (1970 or so) would be essential (and very near Park Lane metro station, on the Newcastle - South Hylton line). A building rather underrated, due partly the general nostalgia that many have for the old Town Hall, knocked down by the (last - to date) Tory council in the sixties. I've always loved it; a great example of civic modernism. Other than that, there are three fairly unremarkable residential tower blocks right in the centre. If you walk east of the city centre, you will see dilapidation, though more of the industrial kind. West of city centre towards the Wear, you'd see what remnants there are of the shipbuilding past - plenty of evocatively derilect factories. Wearmouth Hall - a sometime Univ. lecture theatre and music venue - would have been ideal, but was knocked down a few years ago. Likewise, a lot more 1960s/70s stuff around the centre, and towards Chester Road.

Newcastle - the Byker (East Newcastle) social housing definitely. The Ouseburn area (basically adjoining Byker but nearer the centre / quayside), to see a sensitive adaptation of industrial rev.-era mills etc., however typically surrounded by a phalanx of Blair blocks. Also: some of the high-level walkways to get from the centre to the east, and indeed many of the buildings in the centre itself. In contrast to Sunderland, it maintains a large amount of Georgian/Victorian and also 60s/70s, although the city library** and a few other modernist ones have gone quite recently.

* Or 'Customer Service Centre' as a few signs indicate, depressingly.
** There is apparently a new library that is about to open, on the same site.

5:26 pm  
Anonymous Lang Rabbie said...

The very glassy brand new Newcastle library (which replaces a Basil Spence which had only a very few dedicated fans is by Ryder architects, the successors to Ryder and Yates who heroic stuff such as the Killingworth buildings for Norgas in the 60s.

If you can't make the excursion to Killingworth, I think there are still a couple of Ryder and Yates' buildings standing in central Newcastle. However, from distant memory, the only way you could get a decent photo of their Salvation Army Palace would be from the Gateshead side of the Tyne.

Scope for fruitful comparison?

1:06 pm  
Anonymous Lang Rabbie said...

Presumably you are listening to this to get you in the mood for your journey north?

1:17 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Of course! In fact I'm going to watch it as 'research' presently.

LR, I will certainly try and make it to Killingworth, and cheers for the Ryder info - you know, if you ever need crediting of any sort or, as previously suggested, remuneration, for research like this, do let me know... Sunderland and Peterlee are going to miss out at this rate, alas - I had hoped to pay a visit to the Apollo Pavilion...

7:04 pm  
Blogger Sebastian said...

Northumbria University's Architecture degree show preview night is on Tuesday, 23 June, but if you would like a pre-preview this Saturday please feel free to email me. Further info on my blog:

Roy Budd is much too cool for a good-time toon. Try these:

For balance, I should point out we do also have a contemporary music scene.

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