The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Trinity Square Car Park, © Sarah J Duncan (Click to see full image)
Demolition of Trinity Square Car Park in 2010 © Richard Hook

Lost Modern

Trinity Square Car Park, Gateshead

Status: Destroyed
Architect: Owen Luder Partnership
Location: Trinity Square, Gateshead, NE8 1AD

Built by the Owen Luder Partnership with Rodney Gordon as project architect between 1964 and 1969, Trinity Square was far more than a car park. It was a vast complex of buildings which also included shops, restaurant facilities and community rooms which became the town’s iconic image.

The building was an impressive example of the Brutalist style by one of Britain’s most important post-war architectural practices. Built from raw, exposed concrete – the building became an iconic cultural and architectural landmark, in part because it was from  its roof that Michael Caine threw an enemy to his death in the 1970s gangster film “Get Carter

It was closely modelled on Luder’s Tricorn Centre, a concrete-bodied shopping centre completed in Portsmouth in 1966 (now demolished).

Located on an island created by two major roads – the A184 and Gateshead Highway – in the centre of the city, the site sloped away from the River Tyne, with the car park rising from the lower part of the plot. A two-lane ramp was raised on pilotis that led up from the ring road below.

Two external wells situated either side of the car park took the staircase and lifts outside the main floor plan of the building, freeing up space to allow maximum car-parking capacity. These access towers were a feature replicated in several of Luder’s Brutalist designs, including the Grade II listed Eros House in Catford, south-east London.

Sections of each flight of steps, which ran alongside the levels to the roof, were painted in red or blue. Original plans included a rooftop nightclub that was to occupy the glazed box that topped the car park, but a lease was never agreed.

The uncompromising design was not universally popular and the building was greatly neglected and left to dilapidation.  Earmarked for redevelopment by Gateshead Council in the early 2000s, the C20 Society mounted a campaign to get the building listed. This proved unsuccessful and Trinity Square closed its doors for the final time in 2008. Demolition was completed in 2010 and a new development by Spenhill Developments opened on the site in 2013.  This went on to be nominated for the Carbuncle Cup   – the award for the worst new building in the UK.

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