Join 3,372 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


You're a big man, but you're in bad shape
July 29, 2010 4:59 AM   Subscribe

RIP Trinity Square, Gateshead - a Brutalist car park made famous for it's appearance in the classic British crime drama Get Carter is being demolished this week.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (50 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
.
posted by Mwongozi at 5:14 AM on July 29, 2010


I'm not always a brutalism hater but that thing was pretty hideous and, at least in the pictures on Wikipedia, looks way out of scale for the town's skyline.
posted by octothorpe at 5:19 AM on July 29, 2010


I love it, but I can't understand how they'd ever fill it. Is there a theme park next door or something?
posted by doublehappy at 5:21 AM on July 29, 2010


From the Wikipedia article: "The car park and the rest of the Trinity Square complex is currently undergoing demolition, to make way for the redevelopment of the site by Spenhill Developments, a division of Tesco PLC."

Images of the proposed new buildings at Trinity Square.
posted by iviken at 5:24 AM on July 29, 2010


What will replace it looks like generic late Postmodern corporate jelly mould mush. England doesn't like iconic or interesting architecture much. Sad, really. They could have done more with it. I doubt much Brutalism will survive. Like a lot of modern art it just asks to much of people steeped in Twee.
posted by The Salaryman at 5:42 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Death to parking garages everywhere.
posted by ghharr at 5:42 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Brutalism thoroughly deserves its bad name. I grew up in towns filled with huge cubes of municipal concrete, stained with rain and smelling of piss. It is architecture void of humanity.
posted by unSane at 5:48 AM on July 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


Incidentally, the same architect designed Portsmouth's Tricorn Centre, one of the most depressing places on God's sweet earth.
posted by unSane at 5:52 AM on July 29, 2010


3:AM on Tynside modernism and bent bastard (but our bent bastard) T Dan Smith.
posted by Abiezer at 5:53 AM on July 29, 2010


England doesn't like iconic or interesting architecture much.

I'm not sure either of those words describe what is basically a generic concrete multi-level parking garage.
posted by deanc at 6:00 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a big car park but it's out of shape, and we knock 'em down for a living.
posted by vbfg at 6:03 AM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I want to point out that I like Brutalism. I love concrete, the way it feels, the smooth lines and curves it can make. But that said, the only thing that seems to distinguish it from, say, the car park I use, is that little 'restaurant' glassed in part. I can't see who'd want to restaurant at a car park (the ghost of Ballard, I suppose) but that was an interesting detail.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:03 AM on July 29, 2010


With a name like brutalism....
posted by hellojed at 6:03 AM on July 29, 2010


Fair enough deanc, but plenty of people also really really hate the Barbican, Trellick Tower, The National Theatre etc. It is always a struggle to keep even the better ones around. When I lived near Swiss Cottage the lovely Sports Centre, by , Basil Spence was got rid of for another jelly mould thing that belongs here . unSane I know what you mean, but I think it was low quality materials and design, combined with associated social housing policy that made those places so awful. I don't defend the bent Councils and bad architects that did more damage to the UK than the Luftwaffe - but not all Modern buildings deserve the ire created by the worst of them. The Barbican is a lovely place to live, and Trellick Tower too once it was taken over by activist residents from the local council who let it rot and warehoused depravity there. They are about to destroy Robin Hood Gardens for the same reasons - trashed by residents and bad policy. At least the Isokon in North London was saved. More on it all here
posted by The Salaryman at 6:14 AM on July 29, 2010


A different time, when building a concrete car park that is taller than the surrounding buildings seemed like a good idea.
posted by smackfu at 6:15 AM on July 29, 2010


warehoused depravity there
I did indeed rent a room off a mate's sister there for a bit when I first went to London. But how did you know?
posted by Abiezer at 6:19 AM on July 29, 2010


Every time a giant parking garage is razed, I do a pirouette. Weee.
posted by millipede at 6:22 AM on July 29, 2010


The biggest sins of Brutalism are that:
a) it can be mimicked very cheaply, leading to its use in buildings that are poorly maintained and house things that nobody likes (e.g. your city's Traffic and Parking Administration).
b) it uses a material (raw concrete) that starts out the color of bad weather and quickly becomes cracked, stained and filthy in a city environment.

It's a bit sad, really. In some ways Brutalism was an attempt to humanize Modernism - expose the function of things, react against bourgeois aesthetics and conform to the patterns that people actually follow in a structure. Instead it became the most hideous architectural fad of the 20th century and will rightfully be ground into dust under a thousand bland Postmodern heaps that at least won't grow mold on them.
posted by xthlc at 6:27 AM on July 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


millipede: "Every time a giant parking garage is razed, I do a pirouette. Weee."

Unfortunately, the alternative to giant parking garages are usually giant surface lots which are horrible uses of urban land.
posted by octothorpe at 6:31 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like a lot of brutalist architecture. I'm saddened by the buildings lost in my home town so that some of this stuff could be put up (Kirkgate Market and The Mechanics Institute are two buildings whose mention brings a tear to the eye of many Bradfordians old enough to remember them), and sadder still that this was done because everyone else was doing it and not because it was necessitated by the war, but the replacement buildings have long been a big part of my life and I'm fond of them in their own right.
posted by vbfg at 6:32 AM on July 29, 2010


The arguments pro and anti brutalism are largely redundant here, since the building itself was massively underused and was falling apart. Councils don't fund things that are used. Large expensive unused things don't have a chance.

And car parks are big and are expensive to run, and the land can be used for more profitable things. Especially if you've just sold your soul to the bus monopolies.
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 6:51 AM on July 29, 2010


I love brutalism, even the stuff that isn't really a good example. Much prefer it to the shiny personality free glass stuff now. On the other hand it's easier to like in hindsight since the IRA blew much of it up here and all that's left are a couple of things the University kept. Living in it's shadow was a bit depressing, especially when it started falling apart as these things do.
posted by shinybaum at 6:53 AM on July 29, 2010


Given the horrible, godawful weather there, I'm always surprised that the UK rarely chooses to make use of color in its architecture.

That said, there are a few good pieces of brutalist architecture:
Habitat 67
DC Metro
Geisel Library

The Geisel Library and Habitat 67 are notable for integrating well into the surrounding landscape, which is something that very few brutalist buildings tend to do.
posted by schmod at 6:54 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a big car park but it's out of shape, and we knock 'em down for a living.
*I'm sat here desperately trying to build a joke around the 'blow the bloody doors off' line, but so far to no avail. :D
*gives up
*remembers 'stop pointing your bloody spear at me'
*realizes that neither of the above lines featured in the film, which was the point of the vbfg's pun
*gives up again
posted by Monkeymoo at 7:01 AM on July 29, 2010


Large expensive unused things don't have a chance.

Interesting example in New Haven, CT: Pirelli Tire Building

Obviously much nicer than the car park in question, but similarly orphaned. It's not being used at all and now sits in an IKEA parking lot so I don't know that anyone would be interested in taking it over. It was originally going to be torn down but now it's just there (with a massive IKEA banner on the other side.)
posted by smackfu at 7:02 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


*notices typos
*turns off Metafilter
posted by Monkeymoo at 7:03 AM on July 29, 2010


It's an interesting building, I'll give it that. It's just not suited to the location or the purpose to which it was being put.

Like most Brutalist buildings, it would be perfectly appropriate if it was some sort of suicide center, or the "George W. Bush Enhanced Interrogation Facility", or even just a hulking anonymous building into which passers-by were hoovered up and recycled for their organs. To any of those purposes, such a structure would be perfectly appropriate.

But a parking garage? It's a waste — I mean, what's the point of the architectural equivalent of a boot stomping on a human face forever if the boot is just on its way to the supermarket to buy dinner?

No, I think it's right to tear it down; until we manage to construct the correct level of postmodern dystopia that would do justice to such buildings, make ourselves worthy of such structures, we'll just have to do without.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:05 AM on July 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


Let's keep a lot of pictures of Brutalist buildings, to remember an important architectural movement that we later thought better of and destroyed. And to show to people later on, when they start thinking maybe that sort of thing is a good idea.

Anyone else ever walked under the looming menace of Boston City Hall? That is architecture that hates you. Grind it up for rubble trench foundations.
posted by rusty at 7:09 AM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


> Let's keep a lot of pictures of Brutalist buildings, to remember an important architectural
> movement that we later thought better of and destroyed. And to show to people later on,
> when they start thinking maybe that sort of thing is a good idea.

Exactly what the people who knocked down Victorian architecture to replace with their Brutalist visions were thinking.
posted by vbfg at 7:17 AM on July 29, 2010


"Every time a giant parking garage is razed, I do a pirouette. Weee."

Unfortunately, the alternative to giant parking garages are usually giant surface lots which are horrible uses of urban land.


These days you can move the car park underground with the Wöhr Autopark-Systeme.
posted by netbros at 7:28 AM on July 29, 2010


Brutalist architecture proves that man, the scoundrel, can get used to anything.
posted by The Whelk at 7:36 AM on July 29, 2010


Exactly what the people who knocked down Victorian architecture to replace with their Brutalist visions were thinking.

Weren't some of the people who did the knocking-down thinking "Deutschland Über Alles"? I had always assumed some of the reasoning behind the large-scale use of concrete in this way was that it was a quick, cheap way to rebuild the bombed-out parts of British cities after the Second World War.
posted by kcds at 7:52 AM on July 29, 2010


Quick! Someone reimagine Blake's 7 before they knock down all the brutalism!
posted by biffa at 7:54 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


These days you can move the car park underground with the Wöhr Autopark-Systeme

That is fantastically cool, but why does it have to be so confusing? The poor actress looks permanently bewildered.

And how does a system where all rows have two cars in them, have 101 cars per level?

I wonder if they can build these upside down, with glass walls, so you can see the cars getting juggled. Kind of like the VW storage tower...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 8:12 AM on July 29, 2010


> Weren't some of the people who did the knocking-down thinking "Deutschland Über Alles"?

Some were. Coventry is full of the stuff ansd that was flattened during the war. My home town (Bradford) is full of the stuff and was bombed precisely once and even there, rumour has it they were aiming for Leeds and missed.

It became a fashion, and an essential part of that vision of the brave new world of the post-war future. I have a love hate relationship with it for this reason. Once upon a time English cities had their own unique character and the headlong dash into Brutalism was in some ways the beginning of the end of the uniqueness of these different places. A someone alluded to above, post-war English town planners destroyed a hell of a lot more of England than the Luftwaffe did.

I'm not sure what the plan was for its replacement but here's a famous example of a Victorian building that was considered a relic of a different era and scheduled for demolition. There was a famous campaign to save it, but it was so unloved by assorted city planners that it stood unused for years and is only now, fifty years later, coming back into use.

Note the reference to Euston Station in that last link as a more desirable style. This is Euston Station.
posted by vbfg at 8:18 AM on July 29, 2010


I know you don't like Brutalist architecture, Metafilter.
*stabs Metafilter in stomach*
I know!
posted by stinkycheese at 9:10 AM on July 29, 2010


Exactly what the people who knocked down Victorian architecture to replace with their Brutalist visions were thinking.

I like Victorian architecture, but there are some godawful examples of it. We don't need to preserve every last scrap of it.

I completely forgot about the Pirelli building. Definitely another decent example.

It's worth noting that the word 'Brutalism' takes its roots from Béton Brut, the French phrase for "raw concrete." It has nothing to do with the English word "brutal."

A few months ago, I was standing in a conference room that had a model of the proposed Eisenhower memorial in it, waiting for an event to finish (we had the room booked immediately after). Behind the model of the proposed memorial, there was a model of the existing Forrestal building in the background. A guy standing next to me on the outskirts of the room leaned toward me, and commented that the building looks as though it was made with a waffle iron. I responded that it was nicely offset by the fact that the memorial looked like a freeway overpass -- a fitting tribute to Eisenhower, and that "we may very well come to regard the Frank Gehry crap that cities are building today in the same way 50 years from now."

The next morning, as usual, a copy of the Washington Post arrived on my doorstep. Surprisingly, there was a small picture of the guy I spoke to right on the front page. It was Frank Gehry. And he designed the memorial.

posted by schmod at 9:48 AM on July 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


Man, that's an ugly car park, but then, it's a car park.
It seems to serve its purpose in a direct, no nonsense kinda way.

The proposed replacement isn't any better though. At least the "Brutalists" had imagination and a vision. That Tesco's looks like it was dropped out of an Architecture 101 class.
posted by madajb at 10:49 AM on July 29, 2010


re the Pirelli building - I they let the local law enforcement groups use it for training for a while, but I don't think it's been used since.

IKEA seems happy enough to let it provide shade and a giant place for a banner, and I'm happy, because that means it's up and at least somewhat maintained. From what I understand, the destruction of the building that accompanied it caused some complaints, as the intent was not just to have the large, vertical, and strangely balanced (pleasantly, like one of those swingy pendulum toys) building, but to have it next to a standard long, low, flat office space, in a plane of smooth lot. Of course, with space at a premium in the area, I can understand how such a large space could never really last forever, but I think the preservation of the vertical, more iconic space, make the compromise OK.

This thread must have gotten in my head this morning, since after I first posted I 1. went to IKEA and parked next to the Pirelli building and 2. went to the concrete (Louis Kahn) British Art galleries after.
posted by cobaltnine at 11:34 AM on July 29, 2010


Unfortunately, the alternative to giant parking garages are usually giant surface lots which are horrible uses of urban land.

I know. I'm a transportation planner. The other alternative is not providing excessive parking and thus getting people to take transit, bike, or walk.
posted by millipede at 12:33 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, the same architect designed Portsmouth's Tricorn Centre, one of the most depressing places on God's sweet earth.

Heh. I was about to say "It's no Tricorn Centre".

Of course, it's been demolished now.
posted by Artw at 12:59 PM on July 29, 2010


From what I understand, the destruction of the building that accompanied it caused some complaints

They also wanted the IKEA parking lot to be one of those grass paving systems to preserve the aesthetic, although in retrospect that would have been a waste of money since I've never seen the parking lot around the Pirelli building to be less than full.
posted by smackfu at 1:00 PM on July 29, 2010


The other alternative is not providing excessive parking and thus getting people to take transit, bike, or walk.

Yep, that sounds like a transportation planner all right.
posted by smackfu at 1:01 PM on July 29, 2010


I doubt much Brutalism will survive. Like a lot of modern art it just asks to much of people steeped in Twee.


I am not an architect, but I think your comment is indicative of why brutalism failed to resonate for the people who actually have to live in, work in, or use these buildings. It seems to me that a building, like a Computer user Interface should actually ask as little as possible from people. I mean can you imagine a "brutalist" UI and then when people don't buy the product or hate to use it, a critic @ PC magazine says that is because it asks too much from the proles?


Although it is true as you pointed out, lack of maintenance, materials built on the cheap and a host of other social factors contributed to the depressing misery that strikes brutalist structures.

But why does this architectural style fare far worse than others? I mean you look at Detroit and you can see, under the years of decay and neglect how beautiful those abandoned downtown office buildings or old mansions once were. You really can't say that about Trinity Square or a lot of the brutalist housing estates in Britain. Give me the International Center for Dildo Research any day!
posted by xetere at 2:31 PM on July 29, 2010


.
posted by equalpants at 3:41 PM on July 29, 2010


millipede: "The other alternative is not providing excessive parking and thus getting people to take transit, bike, or walk."

Well that works great if people are willing to walk, bike or take the bus but mostly they aren't. At least 75% of the people that I know aren't. I walk to work and two others bike but we're the weird ones that everyone else makes jokes about. I live a little over a mile from the main business district in my city and I watch my neighbors get into their cars and drive downtown everyday.
posted by octothorpe at 3:51 PM on July 29, 2010


Brutalism is almost unique in styles that always look like they're falling apart within 5 years.
posted by The Whelk at 3:58 PM on July 29, 2010


Also the people flow tends to be AWFUL.
posted by The Whelk at 3:58 PM on July 29, 2010


Buildings are machines for pissing in the lifts of.
posted by Artw at 4:03 PM on July 29, 2010


BEGONE GHOST OF BALLARD! Go haunt some disused highway underpass!
posted by The Whelk at 4:09 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older The 2010 Booker longlist is out,...  |  Global Broadband Statistical P... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments