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Last Updated: Monday, 18 June 2007, 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK
Eyesore or gem: Gateshead car park
Five controversial buildings - should they stay or go?

Gateshead car park. Picture: Sarah Duncan

The maxim of beauty being in the eye of the beholder is no more true than in people's estimations of modern buildings. To mark Architecture Week, the Magazine is taking some of Britain's most controversial buildings to task.

Should Gatehead's Get Carter car park meet the wrecking ball?
No, it should stay
Yes, it should go
I don't know
17525 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
It is known by different names. You will hear it referred to by those who wish to see it demolished as Gateshead multi-storey car park or the Trinity Centre car park. Those who wish to see it stay might call it the Get Carter car park.

To fans of brutalist architecture it is a genre-defining example made iconic both by its stark concrete and for the scene in the classic gangster flick when Michael Caine's character throws a corrupt businessman off the top.

But under a redevelopment plan, it is now set to be demolished and replaced by a Tesco supermarket, among other things. Here Gateshead native Father Michael Brown explains why it will not be missed by locals, and the Twentieth Century Society's Jon Wright insists it must be saved.


It was with great joy that I heard that the long awaited demolition of the Gateshead multi-storey car park is finally going to happen, 26 years after the council first recommended its demolition.

I grew up in the town and worked there for a decade up to 2005. After becoming parish priest of St Joseph's Church, a few hundred yards from the car park, my contact with the town centre became more frequent.

It was impossible not to be aware of the multi-storey car park towering over everything. Its brutal dull concrete and dilapidated state gives an atmosphere of constant gloom to the town centre.

Michael Caine (Picture: Stephan C Archetti/Getty Images)
The building is iconic for Michael Caine devotees

It's surprising to read that it was still open. I don't think I have ever used it to park in. It is crowned by a restaurant which must have had spectacular views over the Tyne and Newcastle but which never functioned as such because it was so inaccessible.

The car park's biggest drawback was its domination of the Gateshead skyline. Gateshead town centre will never compete with Newcastle.

But given the recent opening of the Baltic, the Sage music centre and the Hilton hotel, not to mention quite a number of expensive flats along the quayside which have drawn new visitors and residents to the town, it is high time that Gateshead town centre presented a more pleasing spectacle for the eye.

It is good news that it is not just this car park but a substantial part of the town centre, which is in the same concrete brutalist mode, which is to be rebuilt.

No doubt the news will be lamented by fans of the film Get Carter but can a whole town centre be held to ransom for the sake of a group of film buffs, few of whom I imagine have to live their lives in its shadow?


Built from designs by Owen Luder, Gateshead Car Park in Trinity Square stands as one of the last, large examples of the Brutalist style in the UK. A huge complex, including shopping and restaurant facilities, built from raw, exposed concrete - the building has become an iconic cultural and architectural landmark.

The term Brutalist originates from the French, beton "brut" which means exposed concrete.

Spawned from the ideas of the Modernist movement and in particular those of Swiss architect Le Corbusier, the distinctive geometry and blocky appearance of Brutalism became popular in Britain between the 1950s and the 1970s, when it became allied with ideas of socially engineered architecture.

As a result of the failure of some of the larger projects to deliver the utopia the architects envisaged, the term "Brutalism" has become misunderstood and derided - a byword for bad architecture.

Gateshead car park
Designed by Owen Luder, its sister building in Portsmouth has already been flattened

For several years now, The Twentieth Century Society has argued that this impressive and highly sculptural building could be re-appropriated and creatively incorporated into any new proposals for the site, which it is clear, needs redevelopment.

Unprotected by either the local or national list, the building is seen as standing in the way of progress, in this case a large Tesco store. But as yet, no scheme has tried to incorporate even part of the building - outright demolition has been seen as the only way forward.

With new proposals for the site going to Gateshead Council later on this year, the car park is again in the headlines, and though its fate is still far from certain, it looks more likely than ever that the car park will indeed come down.

Our society sees this as regrettable and has already voiced its concerns again. In 2005, the society ran a design workshop with students from Nottingham University to come up with alternative ideas to demolition and produced some genuinely practical and workable architectural solutions.

With another Brutalist giant, The Tricorn in Portsmouth already gone, Trinity Square has taken on added historical significance and the society still believes a solution could and should be found.

Iconic because of its celebrated appearance in the cult British gangster film Get Carter, Trinity Square is a building that has polarised the architectural establishment, the media and locals alike.

Gateshead has a chance here, by urging creativity and foresight from the developers, to see this incredible structure, not as a liability, but as an asset. Still structurally sound and with the potential to be converted for a number of uses, this distinctive building could show how ideas of sustainability and conservation can be brought together for the benefit of a city.

Below is a selection of your comments.

I have a solution.

Take it apart, block by gruesomely ugly exposed concrete block and re-erect it in the garden of wherever the 20th Century Society has its headquarters. Then they can stare at it, whilst those of us who have to live with it can enjoy what will replace it (an enormous Tesco, no doubt). Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea....
Barry Unwin, South Tyneside

I'll personally volunteer to help in the removal of that car park. My home town centre has been blighted by that thing for most of my life. I'll bet Jon Wright wouldn't want that thing near where he lives! Nor would any of the members of the Get Carter Society.
Alan, Gateshead

I've never seen the car park in question (except in Get Carter, natch), but from that picture it looks absolutely horrible. However, if it's the choice between that and another bleedin' Tesco's, then i say stick with the car-park. Tesco are taking over the world and must be stopped.
MrTrent, Nottingham

As a voice from the future (2068 to be precise) - please quit whilst you are ahead. The whole of what was formerly (so I am told) a beautiful country is now covered with piles of stone, concrete and brick which were listed as "protected" properties in the years around the Millennium. The country is now dilapidated and broken AND WE CAN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT because you Brits have a confused idea of what is 'national treasure'. Please - for my sake and that of your other children, act while you can! Please!
Peter, St Tonysham, UK

I sadly miss the Tricorn in Portsmouth. It will soon be replaced with yet another shiny plastic/glass building to make our town look just like all others...joy. The old Tricorn was in need of a revamp but believe it was neglected to the point whereby public opinion was swayed on its demolition and subsequent area 'Improvement'...rubbish. If the same rush to destroy old, unfashionable buildings had happened through out history imagine our towns now.
Paul, Portsmouth

As someone who lived in Gateshead whilst studying, I believe the car park should be demolished or at least revamped. Gateshead is going through a mass regeneration and the car park simply doesn┐t fit in with any of the plans that have so far been formulated. From a financial point of view it would not be cost effective to do any retro-fit type of alterations and from what I understand no alternative use to the building has been put forward. Although the idea of turning it into a skate park etc for children/teenagers was interesting (but that was just talk amongst students).

When travelling on either side of the Tyne the car park makes an impression, if Gateshead is to compete in anyway with Newcastle it needs to show the world that it is a modern, fresh place to live. Unfortunately the car park doesn┐t do that it is present state. The only other thing that I have thought of is that you make it stand out, paint it, use it to show case local talent. Make it a feature of the skyline and not just a scar.
Jenny, Staffordshire

I have worked near it, parked in it and see it every time I cross the tyne bridge. It has completly dominated Gateshead for years and has led to Gateshead looking and feeling derelict since its opening. Pull it down and quick.
Iain P, Tyneside

I grew up in Newcastle, and now live in the Barbican in London, one of the best examples of brutalist architecture in the world. The main problem with this type of building is simple how badly maintained they often are. The design is meant to evoke a bold 'science fiction' kind of future, but they just look a mess when they get run down. But deep down, the BETTER of these types of structures are great buildings that should be saved - they can look brilliant, and far too many of them have been destroyed. This car park is an iconic building that should be restored and loved! Repair it and paint it white and people will start to see its beauty!...
Henry, Newcastle / London, UK

Surely it's called 'Brutalist' because its architect couldn't have cared less about the poor people who had to live with it. As for the National Theatre in London, Gateshead's monstrosity isn't a fraction as valuable, in my view. I was at the NT last weekend and realised just how much I've come to like that building, but that might partly be because it's softened by the trees on the river bank.
David, London

The trouble is, it's hard to imagine a multi-storey carpark which is exciting, cheery and cuddly.
John, Edinburgh, UK

Paint it green, and people will mistake it for a forest. No-one will complain about a forest.
Duncan, London

It's a car park. That's all. If it's structurally unsound, or no longer required, or something that society can better use to make the day work easier then yes, tear it down. If you want to waste resources on tearing something down just because it's visually unapealling, then no. Don't be an idiot. There is so much waste these days in the name of so called "progress". The world must re-evaluate how it spends our resources globally.
Robert Achmann, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

Gavin LP is right, Gateshead town centre is totally minging, and the car park doesn't help. At least it is distinctive though, which is more than can be said for yet another branch of Tescos. Never mind Get Carter, the carpark is like something out of a dystopian sci-fi first person shooter (think Unreal Tournament) so perhaps it could be used to host the worlds first cyber-olympics in 2112.
Richard Graham, Newcastle/Gateshead

A hard one to call. There is a strong case that at least some Brutalist architecture should be preserved, both as a historical snapshot and as a warning to future generations, but I'd hate to have to live near any of it. Could it be cut into sections and moved to an architectural history park somwehere where it could be properly preserved and maintained (possibly even still in use for visitors) but no-one would have to live with it in a crowded city environment?
Jack Howard, Leeds, UK

Well I have driven past it many a time and it really does need to go. Newcastle is a wonderful city and Gateshead strapped onto to it has been like an Armani suit with a polyester kipper tie. The people of Gateshead deserve a nicer place. Lose it and let them see the sun.
Haider, Guildford

My appreciation of the building's historic interest is tempered by the problem of what it might be used for. It certainly fails to function as a car park - several floors of parking, I believe, have long been closed off due to structural problems, while the rooftop restaurant has never been occupied. When I did some research on the building a couple of years ago I was interested to see that there had been several proposals, in the 1960s and 70s, to use the rooftop space, but none that had come to fruition.

One scheme, bizarrely, was thrown out due to a "lack of parking". Even accepting the car park as an iconic structure, it's difficult to see what alternative use might be found. Two things are clear though: one, Gateshead town centre is definitely in need of major investment to bring it up to the quality of surrounding quayside developments; and two, it's crucial that if we do pull down the Get Carter car park, what replaces it has to be something that is architecturally fa! bulous ┐ Gateshead has gained some stunning, iconic buildings over the last few years (The Baltic, the Sage, Staiths South Bank...), and deserves much better than a boring Tesco box.
Graham Soult, Gateshead

Personally, I knew nothing much about Gateshead before reading this article, but I would now be interested in going there if I was in the area to see the car park, mainly as a fan of "Get Carter" but also for for its architectural importance.
Nigel Gingold, Ilminster, Somerset

Anything that isn't attractive on the eye or modern seems to be doomed these days. Can't we celebrate architecture from years passed? Or do we have to suffer the Gherkin and it's off-shoots from now on? Keep the car park!
Ricky, London

Historic buildings such as this should be saved for future generations. It may not be fashionable now but the brave post-war architecture of Gateshead Car Park is of historic significance, especially now the Tricorn is gone. Do we really want to lose interesting buildings such as this and become a Tesco nation?
Sam Metson, Chelmsford, UK

I think it should stay, but it won't. So is Gavin from Newcastle or Gateshead? They are (and will hopefully remain) two separate urban areas. I detest the Newcastle/Gateshead marketing campaign, it's awful. Get rid of that and let the car park stay.
C S, Newcastle

I have to look at the ugly thing every day from my office window and believe me it doesn't get any prettier the more you look at it. The whole horizon of Gateshead will be much better when the blot on the landscape is finally removed. Everyone I know hates it so whats the problem? They could even put another angel there!
Stuart Coulthard, Newcastle upon Tyne

Its a shame to see it go, I used to live in Nixon Street in Gateshead with my uncle and all that has been demolished. I remember as a kid playing up and down that car park and as a teenager meeting many a lass in the cafe in the market under the car park. I live in Derby now but remember great times. The car park should stay.
Ian Dryden, Derby

As an incomer as they say up here (although I've been here 15 years now) I'll be glad to see the back of it. Gateshead City Centre is one of the dullest most oppressing places ever - and it's mainly due to the car park. It may be iconic as far as Get Carter is concerned butyou can always watch the film if you need to see the structure! Roll on the day it comes down!
Gavin LP, Newcastle/Gateshead, UK

1960s arcitecture was largely about grey, functional design driven by a post war need for quick regeneration in damaged areas. Unfortunately, it was also ugly and unlikely to age well. Concrete was king and cheap. As a child, I thought some new constructions looked modern and futuristic but now they just look awful when compared with classic Tudor, Georgian, Regency and Victorian architecture. Clearly, as a nation we disapprove by and large, judging by the styles we apply when we develop our homes and judging from the styles of houses built over the past 20 years. I say leave one building standing in each town or city and knock down the rest of these 1960s monstrocities as an historic monument of bad design and as a lesson to future generations never to repeat such mistakes.
Joe Richardson, Biggleswade

I totally agree with Gavin LP's comments. The building is a dilapidated, vacant eyesore and in desperate need of demolition. Gateshead is striving for successful regeneration of itself - any new work carried out to the town centre is simply undone when you cast your eye over this appalling 'iconic' piece of work.
Dave Goodwin, Newcastle upon Tyne

By the looks of that picture it doesn't look too good! But if we are going by those standards then half of London (if not more) needs to be ripped down, especially the NT - National Theatre near Waterloo station. Now that is concrete at it's worst.
Michael, London, England

It looks quite iconic. The problem with concrete is the discolouration that sets in over the years. If someone had the money to "polish" or paint the thing, it might be an impressive part of the cityscape. Although I agree that 95% of the buildings from the 1955-1985 time-slot need to be pulled down urgently, some of them should be maintained, because they, too, are a part of the architectural heritage.
Matthias, Germany

The Tricorn in Portsmouth has to have been to worst one and thankfully that's gone. Some things are worth preserving but lets excercise some sensible judgement and just keep the well planned, functional, good examples that add value and contribute to peoples quality of life - not keep every old piece of useless, depressive tat that's every existed for no future benefit.
Abi, Nottingham, UK

It was unfortunate that my local council in Portsmouth demolished our own Brutalist Tricorn Centre, when all it needed was finishing. I can only hope that Gateshead will recognise the style inherant in this car park. Or do we want our history to consist solely of 'Chocolate Box' buildings?
Bary P, Havant England

Keep it and invest in it. Make some floors shopping, others nightclubs, restaurants, leisure uses and some car parking. This would be more sustainable than out-of-town developments!
Anton Lang, Newcastle

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