The Tricorn Centre
Resurrection, Preservation Amy Crellin 130148874
Acknowledgements With many thanks to my tutor Russell Light for his excellent feedback and assistance and my father for his encouragement and support throughout the study.
The Tricorn Centre: Resurrection, Preservation
13 14 15 16
Object of the Study Context and Research Questions Methodology Building Analysis Sources
Part I The Context 20 23 24 26 28 29 30 32 33
Timeline Portsmouth History of the site: World War II Bombing Changes to the Urban Fabric of the site Portsmouth: A Former Regional Shopping Centre Site Forces: Portsea Island Site Forces: Tricorn Site Location of Traders and Key Tenants on Commercial Road Axes
Part II The Tricorn Centre 37 38 40 42 45 46 47 48 50 42 54 56 57 58 59 60 61
The Tricorn Centre in Context The Tricorn Centre Sculptural Form and Geometry Plans Key Tenants and Shopper Flow: The Planning of the Site The Tricorn Centre as Layers Elevations Horizontal and Vertical Planes The Central Courtyard The Casbah Concept Massing Development Vertical Pedestrian Access Vehicular Access The Urban Problems Activity Level Decline on Commercial Road Portsmouth, No Longer A Regional Shopping Centre Other Problems
Appendix A: Interview with Owen Luder
Photo 1: Today. Surface car park on former Tricorn Centre site. Cascades shopping centre in the background . Source: http://stuartcrow.com/wp/tricorn-controversy-in-concrete-at-the-city-museum/
“There is of course a far greater interest in the so called “brutalist” architecture of the 1960’s and the current Minister has listed 1960’s and 1970’s buildings – some of which are far less important architecturally and historically than the Tricorn. The site of the Tricorn when I first saw it in 1959 was a dreary surface car park. Today – eleven years after its demolition it is a dreary surface car park. I sense if it had not been demolished in 2004 it would be listed, renovated and alive with new activity. How sad.”1
Owen Luder, 2015
1 Email from Owen Luder to Amy Crellin, 23rd September 2015.
“Portsmouth is to be congratulated on having such a gem of the 1960’s”2
“This is a unique and seminal building of the 1960s. It’s tough, macho quality, with its profiled and sculpted concrete... has a poignant relevance to that decade and the naval city of Portsmouth in particular. Listing would give Portsmouth a second chance to appreciate that the Tricorn is a valuable legacy, something to be cherished rather than discarded.”3 Professor Sir Colin Stansfield Smith, RIBA Gold Medallist, former Hampshire County Architect
“the most powerful architectural tour de force in the history of Portsmouth... the architecture is brilliantly inventive.”4
Alan Balfour, Portsmouth
“this is architecture that sets out to be brash and exuberant: to subdue the vulgar shop fascias, and the mess of parking and marketing by its overriding vigour. Much better this way than to try forcing commerce into a straitjacket of genteel good taste... Above all, there is a sense of place: the Tricorn will become a distinctive symbol of the town and act as a magnet within the area.”5 Michael Webb, Architecture in Britain Today
“The form of the whole is highly romantic, with many planes and varied heights (and at least in its incomplete state) a fascinating skyline.”6
Nikolaus Pevsner and David Lloyd, The Buildings of England, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight
“You don’t go knocking down Stonehenge or Lincoln Cathedral. I think buildings like the Tricorn were as good as that. They were great monuments of an age.”7 Jonathan Meades
“We think the Tricorn should be saved. It’s a world-famous landmark in Portsmouth. This is a unique piece of architecture.”8
Jim Earle, Tricorn demolition protestor
2 Celia Clark, Portsmouth Society Annual Report 2004, (Portsmouth: The Portsmouth Society, 2004) <http://www.portsmouthsociety.org.uk/docs2004/report2004.htm> [accessed 6 April 2017]. 3 Celia Clark, Portsmouth Society Annual Report 2004, (Portsmouth: The Portsmouth Society, 2004) <http://www.portsmouthsociety.org.uk/docs2004/report2004.htm> [accessed 6 April 2017]. 4 Alan Balfour, Portsmouth, (London: Studio Vista Limited, 1970) p. 86. 5 Michael Webb, Architecture in Britain Today, Middlesex: Hamlyn House for Country Life Books, 1969, p. 150. 6 Nikolaus Pevsner and David Lloyd, The Buildings of England, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1967), pp. 458-459. 7 James Kidd, ‘Death, Brutalism and pre-pubertal sex: Jonathan Meades embraces some difficult subjects in his TV series and memoir’, Independent, 24 February 2014 <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/ death-brutalism-and-pre-pubertal-sex-jonathan-meades-embraces-some-difficult-subjects-in-his-tv-9144497.html> [accessed 6 April 2017]. 8 Chris Owen, ‘Tricorn rebel insists: I’m no nutter’, The Portsmouth News, 27 March 2004, p.15.
“Tricorn Centre, Portsmouth: Someone round here once called it “ mildewed lump of elephant droppings covered in drainpipes.””9
“Three Cheers for the demolition of the Tricorn Centre. It was a hideous building the day it was built, and the passing of time has made it much worse. I have lived in many parts of the UK since living in Portsmouth when the Tricorn was built. In all these places I can think of no more ugly edifice.”10
Jasmine Bean, Member of Public
“It looks horrible from the outside”11
Lord Mayor of Portsmouth
“The local population of Portsmouth have hated this eyesore since it was built and have actively been campaigning for it to be pulled own for the last 30 years... please let them pull down the Tricorn.”12
Linda Burton, Member of Public
“I am delighted that common sense has prevailed in this matter and that we can move as swiftly as possible now on to demolition.”13 Mike Hancock, Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth South
“At last... blot on city landscape is going”14 The Portsmouth News article headline
“It’s ta-ta to the Tricorn - no, really... The controversial Tricorn will blight Portsmouth for just six more months as its demolition paves the way for a new vision of the city.”15
The Portsmouth News article
9 Matt Weaver, ‘Country’s Ugliest Building to be Torn Down’, Guardian, 10 March 2004 <https://www.theguardian.com/society/2004/mar/10/urbandesign.arts> [accessed 6 April 2017]. 10 Jasmine Bean, ‘A brutal end for a brutal building’, BBC Radio 4 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/reports/misc/tricorncentre_20040324.shtml> [accessed 22nd April 2017]. 11 Unknown Author, ‘New Market: First Stage is Opened’, Hampshire Telegraph, 26th May 1966. 12 Email from Linda Burton to Portsmouth Society, 13th Febraury 2004. 13 Unknown Author, ‘Residents flatten ugly building’, BBC News, 21st March 2004 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hampshire/dorset/3555555.stm> [accessed 22nd April 2017]. 14 Richard Bettsworth, ‘At last... blot on city landscape is going’, The Portsmouth News, 17th June 1999, p. 5. 15 David, Maddox, ‘It;s ta-ta to the Tricorn - no really...’, The Portsmouth News, 15th November 2003, p. 14.
The Tricorn: Resurection, Preservation Amy Crellin
The Tricorn Centre, designed by Owen Luder Partnership, was constructed in Portsmouth between 1962 and 1966 and demolished in 2004. Once an architectural icon of Portsmouth, it was a significant example of the modernist architectural movement and one of Owen Luder Partnership’s star buildings. The design: form, brutalist appearance, functional aspects as well as the demolition were all controversial, with much debate. “The Tricorn was loved – and hated”1. Heritage minister Andrew McIntosh decided it was not worth listing, ”while an interesting building, I have decided that it does not possess the degree of special significance required for listing.”2 According to Guardian article (2016), the listing process is failing ‘brutalist’ buildings, from the 1960s and 70s. “They are tough, not obviously charming and carry a label no PR expert would have chosen, of “brutalism”. Some have serious technical problems, albeit often exaggerated. They are a hard sell... These works are mostly public buildings, built by local authorities... They are also socialist. They tend not to maximise the commercial efficiency of their sites, preferring a generosity of space that now makes them vulnerable to property developers who can multiply their profit-making area by factors of two, three, four and more.”3 Former English Heritage chief executive, Simon Thurley explains they tend to be unpopular with the public and politicians and there is a “‘one-size-fits-all’ philosophy of conservation”4 based on keeping the original fabric. There is also a procedural problem, as these buildings depend on the support of English Heritage and the relevant minister. Demolishing these postwar buildings leads to loss of architectural history, loss of energy and material in construction and remains sent to land fill. Thurley say “the danger is that everything will be just got rid of and the next generation will have absolutely no idea about that extraordinary period of incredible optimism and determination to use architecture to transform society.”5 The Tricorn is a classic example of the listing system failing these types of buildings, eg. Preston Bus Station, “just before its period comes to be fully appreciated and just when the functional justification for its existence seems weakest”.6 I have a personal connection to the building; growing up in Portsmouth, I have distinct memories of the Tricorn’s sculptural nature, particularly the spiral ramps. The complex was demolished when I was eleven, although some memories are distinct, they are fragmentary. I had a great curiosity about the complex and still do today. For these reasons, I investigated further.
1 Celia Clark and Robert Cook, The Tricorn: the life and death of a sixties icon, (Portsmouth: Tricorn Books, 2010), p. 27. 2 Matt Weaver, ‘Country’s Ugliest Building to be Torn Down’, Guardian, 10 March 2004 <https://www.theguardian.com/society/2004/mar/10/urbandesign.arts> [accessed 6 April 2017]. 3 Rowan, Moore, ‘How Britain is failing its modernist masterpeices’, Guardian, 29 May 2009 <https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/may/29/modernist-architecture-demolished-listed-buildings> [accessed 6 April 2017]. 4 Dalya Alberge, ‘Save our brutalist masterpieces, says top heritage expert’, Guardian, 13 November 2010 <https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/nov/13/save-brutalist-buildings-warns-simon-thurley> [accessed 6 April 2017]. 5 Ibid. 6 Rowan, Moore, ‘How Britain is failing its modernist masterpeices’, Guardian, 29 May 2009 <https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/may/29/modernist-architecture-demolished-listed-buildings> [accessed 6 April 2017].
Object of the Study
The study aims to resurrect and preserve the ideas of the Tricorn. It is resurrected or reconstructed through building a CAD model. The act of resurrection or reconstruction of a building which no longer exists allows a much greater understanding of the design and how it works, particularly with the Tricorn’s. Although conceptually simple, the building form appears complex. Portsmouth Society’s 2004 Annual Report states: “the Tricorn will continue to live on in memory, film, photography and art”7. Therefore the building and its concepts are preserved through the medium of this book, (special study). The output is both written and visual. The analysis is presented through analytical diagrams which document, discuss and critically analyse the planning and design of the Tricorn in its city context, with selected photographs from archival and personal collections to enhance spatial understanding. The diagrams are a formal architectural technique, eg. architectural mapping and diagrams to analyse the design. They unpick the design’s form, explaining the two and three dimensional nature and complexity of the Tricorn, to people who never used or experienced it, particularly since it no longer exists and cannot be visited in person. They illustrate spatial concepts more appropriately than words to preserve the Tricorn more competently than words, allowing easier extraction of spatial concepts. Reasons for the complex’s decline have also been illustrated. Geoffrey Baker’s Design Strategies in Architecture suggests diagrams “encourage thought patterns capable of considerable dexterity. This dexterity, the ability to grasp the essence of a concept, and through this understanding to fully develop an idea, is central to the act of design.”8
7 Celia Clark, Portsmouth Society Annual Report 2004, (Portsmouth: The Portsmouth Society, 2004) <http://www.portsmouthsociety.org.uk/docs2004/report2004.htm> [accessed 6 April 2017]. 8 Geoffrey H., Baker, Design Strategies in Architecture: An Approach to the Analysis of Form, 2nd edn (Oxon: Routledge, 2006), p. 66. 13
Context and Research Questions
Research Questions This study analyses the design within its historical, social, commercial, urban and technological contexts, studying the site from before the Tricorn’s construction (circa.) 1940 to the time of its demolition in 2004. Rodney Gordon, head of the design team for the Tricorn says, “it was very much a spirit of the time.”9 The key research questions are: 1. Why was the Tricorn built and how was it designed? This focuses on the site and its contextual frameworks, investigating bombing of the site subsequently used for the Tricorn, changes to the urban fabric of the site, Portsmouth City Council’s planning requirements that influenced the development, Portsmouth’s commercial context as a regional shopping centre and the need for more retail space, existing traders and key tenants as well as site forces influencing the design including the axes of the site. The design concepts are explored addressing how the building is designed to work within its contextual frameworks. The key concepts are explained: the building working within the planning of the site, layers of the design, horizontal and vertical planes, the central courtyard and casbah influences, the massing and functions of the Tricorn as well as the pedestrian and vehicular access and movement. 2. An understanding of the site and the building’s ideas leads to: why did the Tricorn decline, resulting in its demolition? The problems investigated include the planning of the surrounding urban setting: movement of the bus depot, the construction of a new shopping centre, the position of the market and decline in activity level to the north of the city centre shopping area and the city generally. Design problems are addressed including the size of the ramps, the detailing of the building and the effect of the casbah metaphor. The lack of council maintenance is also discussed. 3. How successful is the analytical diagram methodology of analysis? Analytical diagrams are used throughout the essay, exploring the Tricorn, however this research question is not addressed within the body of the essay, but discussed in the conclusion. It argues the successes, criticisms and difficulties of the technique as well as what has been learnt. It addresses whether this form of analysis is an appropriate methodology for the study.
Celia Clark: The Tricorn: The Life and Death of a Sixties Icon Celia Clark’s book The Tricorn: The Life and Death of a Sixties Icon is a very insightful starting point for the study. Clark uses a chronological, historical narrative approach, bringing together “a collage of documentary material, and the rich seam of people’s memories of the building”10, exploring the Tricorn’s conception and demolition. Clark’s book is an academically valid, published piece of work, the only published piece found that is so cohesive and solely about the Tricorn. I would like to build upon Clark’s work and explore the same research questions however I question how analytical the book is from a formal architectural point of view. Many of the individuals interviewed are lay persons without formal architectural experience. My study differs as it uses a formal architectural analysis approach through diagrams, focusing on spatial ideas and design concepts rather than narrative. This type of analysis allows for a 3 dimensional understanding of the form of the building. Analysing the building under these differing conditions and drawing its own conclusions provide an important addition to the field of Tricorn study.
9 James Ferrone, The Tricorn, 2009 <https://vimeo.com/6122142> [accessed 6 April 2017]. 10 Celia Clark and Robert Cook, The Tricorn: the life and death of a sixties icon, (Portsmouth: Tricorn Books, 2010), p. 6. 14
1. Collection Firstly, a range of literature from various sources including books, architecture journals, news articles and media articles were examined to gain an understanding of ideas and opinions of the Tricorn. Archival research was conducted at the Portsmouth History Centre. The original architect’s drawings of the complex and historic maps of the wider context, the development of the area and site and Portsmouth’s wider urban development were found, supplemented by online mapping websites; google earth, google maps, digimaps and bing maps to develop an initial understanding of the building and site. Master plans for the city were reviewed to understand Portsmouth’s City Council’s intentions for the development. A large collection of photographs of the Tricorn at various stages in its life were located from publicly accessible and private sources, then categorised. 2. Resurrection CAD models of the Tricorn were sourced, forming an integral part of understanding the three dimensional nature of the building. Unfortunately, as the building no longer exists, experiencing it in person, as a form of analysis and photographing the building was not possible. The CAD models were revised and my own sketchup model produced with reference to the original architects drawings and categorised photography collection to establish my own understanding of the complex and to produce a working model for generating the graphical elements of this dissertation. An interview with the surviving architect, Owen Luder was conducted to further understand the contextual framework and conceptual ideas behind the design. The motivation of this study is to go back as far as possible to the original concepts and ideas, therefore the work replies heavily on the interview with Owen Luder and the original plans. Meeting with Dr Celia Clark, author of The Tricorn: Life and Death of a 60’s Icon reiterated ideas within her book and established contacts and other research threads. 3. Preservation An approach of drawing diagrams and maps or plans that analyse this information, similar to the approach architects take in studio when analysing sites and abstracting a design in order to explain it was adopted.
Building Analysis Sources
Several building analysis approaches through graphical means have been identified and studied to understand how previous authors have undertaken an analysis of a building or an urban setting. This forms the basis for analysis in this study. Design Strategies in Architecture: an approach to the analysis of form, is primarily referred to since it is the most coherent example of building analysis found. Baker describes the analysis as a “selective, subjective exercise”11, the architectural form of the subject matter determines how the analysis is undertaken and the extent to which each area is discussed.12 James Stirling’s Foreword of Baker’s book suggests that this form of graphical analysis should form a basis for criticism amongst architectural writers. “Surely his method and skill in explaining the design intentions which lead to the appearance of a new building is of more value to the public than the gratuitous jottings of the architectural journalists, who seem always (in the U.K.) to be writing from predetermined and irrelevant viewpoints.”13 There is “a deeper and more sophisticated understanding of the design process related to a particular building”. This shows why this methodological approach is valuable. The Tricorn is surrounded by opinion and sentiment, but currently there is nothing that explores the design approach, conceptual ideas and spatial aspects, analysing the building in a graphical analytical method in order to critique it. The method in this study presents a new angle to investigate and critique the Tricorn Baker’s Principles of Analysis are as follows: his “analytical methodology seeks to discover those primary organisational factors which operate in a building or project, and in so doing to reveal the preoccupations of the designer.”14 He describes “three key factors” that affect architecture; buildings must respond to: 1. Site conditions 2. Functional requirements 3. The culture in which they find themselves. “The state of advancement of the culture will affect the kind of structure and materials used.”15 According to Baker, a “factor” is “a weighting, a degree of intensity or energy emanating from the source. This will exert an influence on the surroundings, depending on its strength, usage, power of massing or means of making its presence felt in a situation.”16 His analytical studies often begin with the building in relation to its site. These site conditions including: orientation, views and access. A “process of dissection”17 is used to map the “three factors” affecting architecture as a “volumetric disposition”. This “process of dissection” includes analysing: 1. Circulation pattern (often relates to volumetric disposition) 2. Key axes (in the building and immediate surroundings) 3. Structural systems 4. Organisation of materials 5. Environmental considerations (sun path, heat loss / heat gain) 6. Services arrangement
11 Geoffrey H., Baker, Design Strategies in Architecture: An Approach to the Analysis of Form, 2nd edn (Oxon: Routledge, 2006), p. 64. 12 Ibid., p. 64. 13 Ibid., p. xiv. 14 Ibid., p. 64. 15 Ibid., p. xvii. 16 Ibid., p. 64. 17 Ibid., p. 64.
Clark and Roger’s Precedents in Architecture: Analytical Diagrams, Formative Ideas and Partis presents the analyses of buildings of different periods in a double page spread grid of two dimensional drawings and parti diagrams. This grid format “emphasizes what is... the same, rather than different”18 about architecture in the past and present, allowing the reader to compare parti diagrams for specific themes within buildings. David Walter’s paper, Form and Content: The Analysis of an Urban Setting ‘examines ideas of urban place... by the graphic analysis of a specific locale, the town of Siena, in Italy’ It postulates a relationship between form and content, that is, the spatial structures and the functional or symbolic structures that comprise this urban setting. This analytical technique penetrates beneath the superficial appearances of buildings and spaces, and identifies a conceptual order underlying the formal relationships.19
18 Roger H. Clark and Michael Pause, Precedents in Architecture: Analytical Diagrams, Formative Ideas and Partis, 4th edn, (New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2012), p.v. 19 David Walters. ‘Form and Content: The Analysis of an Urban Setting’, Oz. < http://dx.doi.org/10.4148/2378-5853.1176> [accessed 10th November 2016]. 17
Part I The Context
Portsmouth is bombed during the WWII between July 1940 and July 1944. Terraced housing occupying the future Tricorn Centre site is destroyed.
Developer, Alec Coleman asks Owen Luder to visit Portsmouth. He does sketch to show the planning officer.
Outline planning permission is granted in October 1962. Detailed plans are approved in February 1964.
Construction by Taylor Woodrow on the Tricorn Centre begins on 2nd March 1962 and is completed in 1966.
The Tricorn Centre opens on 31st August 1966 by Portsmouth mayor Frank Lines.
A new shopping centre, Cascades, opens adjacent to the Tricorn Centre on 26th of September 1989 after construction work began in 1987.
The Tricorn Centre demolition is rejected by the city council.
The city council changes its mind.
Listing is declined by heritage minister Andrew McIntosh.
The Tricorn Centre demolition begins on 24th of March 2004 and demolition work lasts approximately nine months.
Diagram 1a: Portsmouth’s location in the United Kingdom.
Diagram 1b: The Solent, showing Portsea Island and the Tricorn site.
The Tricorn site is situated on Portsea Island, Portsmouth, a large port city situated on the south coast of England. Portsmouth is located primarily on Portsea Island, a “roughly bell-shaped”20 island, divided from the mainland by Port Creek at its northern end.21 It is the UK’s most densely populed and only island city. Founded during the Roman era, the city has been an important naval dock for centuries. Portsmouth was England’s first line of defence during the French invasion in 1545 and by the 19th century it was the most fortified city in the world. The city served as an important embarkation point for the D-Day landings during WWII and was bombed extensively during the Portsmouth Blitz. The maritime base at HMNB Portsmouth is the largest dockyard for the Royal Navy, home to 2/3 of the whole surface fleet. Portsmouth has one of the three Naval Bases currently in operation, with the largest dockyard for the Royal Navy, where 2/3 of its fleet is located.22 Portsmouth Harbour lies in the west, established during the 3rd century.23
20 Alan Balfour, Portsmouth, (London: Studio Vista Limited, 1970), p. 5. 21 Nikolaus Pevsner and David Lloyd, The Buildings of England, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1967), p. 389. 22 ‘Portsmouth’, Wikipedia <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portsmouth> [accessed 10th November 2016]. 23 Alan Balfour, Portsmouth, (London: Studio Vista Limited, 1970), p. 5.
History of the site: World War II Bombing
Diagram 2a: Portion of Bomb map of Portsmouth showing the Tricorn site, H M Dockyard and surrounding area. Diagram derived from: Portsmouth City. (1941). City of Portsmouth Fall of Bombs. Portsmouth: Author.
Photo: Bomb damage showing approximate Tricorn site. Source: Portsmouth History Centre.
Portsmouth was a major target to the Luftwaffe, in WWII since it has the largest Royal Naval dockyard. The city suffered 67 raids. The main blitzes on 10th January 1941, 10th March 1941 and 27th April 1941. The Tricorn site being adjacent to the dockyard and Commercial Road, major targets in Portsmouth, suffered heavy bomb damage. Once residential, it was in ruins after bombs hit the site between 23rd December 1940 and 27th April 1944.24 Diagram 2a shows bombs dropped on the site and its surroundings, including Commercial Road and the dockyard. Diagram 2b shows bombs that hit the Tricorn site and the dates that each bomb dropped.
Diagram 2b: Close section of Bomb map of Portsmouth showing the Tricorn site, H M Dockyard and surrounding area. Numbers relate to orders of bombs dropped. Diagram derived from: Portsmouth City. (1941). City of Portsmouth Fall of Bombs. Portsmouth: Author.
Rodney Gordon, head of the Tricorn Centre design team accounts, “the post-war period was an exciting time, a time of great aspirations. The task of rebuilding our blitzed cities was about to be carried out with the energetic spirit of a new society. The old hypocrisies were crumbling. Labour had been swept to power, and a new world was to be reconstructed for the new age, an age of the people.”25
24 Philipp Geng, ‘Why Portsmouth was a major target’, WWII – Battle over Britain: Portsmouth and the Blitz, July 1940 – July 1944 <http://portsmouthblitz.co.uk/?page=main> [accessed 10th November 2016]. 25 Rodney Gordon, ‘Modern Architecture for the Masses’, The Journal of the Twentieth Century Society: Twentieth Century Architecture: The Sixties, 6 (2002), 73. 25
Changes to the Urban Fabric of the site Diagrams 3a-d show changes to the urban fabric of the Tricorn site. Before the WWII bombing, the site was a highly densely populated residential area with back to back terrace housing. Post war and post bombing, few of the former terrace houses remain. By 1962, Portsmouth Corporation had cleared the Tricorn site.26 The Tricorn was constructed between 1962 and 1964. In 1989 the Cascades opened, a new shopping centre adjacent to the Tricorn Centre.
Diagram 3a: Tricorn site and surroundings 1933. Before WWII and before the Tricorn construction. Diagram derived from: Ordnance Survey. (1933). County Series Hampshire Sheet LXXXIII.8, 1:2500. Southampton: Author.
26 Alan Balfour, Portsmouth, (London: Studio Vista Limited, 1970), p. 86. 26
Diagram 3b: Tricorn site and surroundings 1960. After WWII and before the Tricorn construction. Diagram derived from: Ordnance Survey. (1960). Plan SU6400 & Plan SU6500, 1:2500. Chessington: Author.
Diagram 3c: Tricorn site and surroundings 1970. Tricorn constructed and before Cascades shopping centre. Diagram derived from: Ordnance Survey. (1970). Plan SU6400 & Plan SU6500, 1:2500. Southampton: Author.
Diagram 3d: Tricorn site and surroundings circa 1990. Tricorn constructed and after Cascades shopping centre construction. Diagram derived from: Ordnance Survey. (1991). Plan SU6400NW, 1:1250. Southampton: Author. Ordnance Survey. (1990). Plan SU6400NE, 1:1250. Southampton: Author. Ordnance Survey. (1986). Plan SU6400SW, 1:1250. Southampton: Author.
Portsmouth: A Former Regional Shopping Centre
Diagram 4a: Portsmouth, the regional shopping centre in the 1960s.
By the “‘60s people had got money; the whole economy had exploded, they’d got jobs. What did they want to do with their money, spend it in shops.”27 - Rodney Gordon. “If you’re doing a shopping scheme, the first thing was is it big enough to warrant a large supermarkets and other multiples because the multiples were key.”28 Owen Luder understood the economics of retail development very well. “in the 1950s and 60s, Portsmouth was the regional centre for the whole of that southern half of Hampshire”29, with great “shopping potential”30. Developer, Alec Coleman asked Luder to investigate a site on Charlotte Street for a shopping development. He explored different shopping areas of Portsmouth island, including Southsea and North End. Luder chose the former Tricorn site near Commercial Road instead of Coleman’s proposed location and the other shopping regions of Portsmouth. “The question was if we are going to do a big development shopping centre, should we do it there or in another part of Portsmouth. Everything indicated that was the established top shopping centre, that clearly was the area that the multiples would go into. North End was not a competitor and Southsea was posher shopping but limited.”31
Diagram 5: Other sites explored in Portsmouth.
27 Celia Clark and Robert Cook, The Tricorn: the life and death of a sixties icon, (Portsmouth: Tricorn Books, 2010), p. 34. 28 Owen Luder, interviewed by Amy Crellin, 12 February 2017, Westminster, London. (See Appendix A). 29 Ibid. (See Appendix A). 30 Ibid. (See Appendix A). 31 Ibid. (See Appendix A).
Site Forces: Portsea Island
Topography: Portsmouth is largely flat although there are hills North of Portsea Island. The Tricorn site sits on Portsea Island and has no slopes to deal with. Routes: Vehicular access into Portsea Island is primarily along the eastern or western road.
Diagram 6: Portsea Island showing key routes to the Tricorn site. Diagram derived from: Ordnance Survey. (1983). Sheet SU60/70, 1:25000. Southampton: Author.
Site Forces: Tricorn Site
The major site forces of the Tricorn Centre site are Commercial Road, Marketway and the Dockyard wall. The Tricorn Centre site intersects between Commercial Road and the Dockyard wall. Commercial Road and Marketway: Commercial Road is a key road, extending north of the Tricorn Centre site leading to the M275, western route off Portsea Island and south to Portsmouth and Southsea station and Guildhall. There is a lot of movement and activity along Commercial Road, the principle shopping street of Portsmouth, which is largely pedestrian activity near the Tricorn site. The Tricorn site does not impinge directly on Commercial Road, it is located behind the major shopping street at the rear entrances of the shops. Marketway, the bypass road, lies along a key vehicular route leading to Portsmouth Harbour, where the main dock is situated and the railway line ends. St. Agathaâ€™s Church lies along Marketway. Dockyard Wall: The Dockyard wall contrasts to Commercial Road and Marketway, which are fluid site forces. It is a barrier between the public and the dockyard, a military / secret site with restricted access. The general public canâ€™t interact with the dockyard due to high walls with no views, it is austere in visual appearance. The dockyard wall is therefore a static site force. Charlotte Street: The market that pre-exists the Tricorn Centre was established on Charlotte Street, at the North of the Commercial Road shopping area. This is the main link between the Tricorn Centre site and Commercial Road.
Diagram 7: Plan of the Tricorn site and surroundings showing site forces. Diagram derived from: Ordnance Survey. (1970). Plan SU6400 & Plan SU6500, 1:2500. Southampton: Author.
Photo 3: Arial plan of the Tricorn site. Source: Portsmouth History Centre.
Diagram 8: Birds eye view looking north-east showing the Tricorn site and surrounding site forces. Diagram based upon: Photograph at University of Portsmouth Map Library.
Location of Traders and Key Tenants on Commercial Road Commercial Road: 99 Whittard 101 Singer Sewing Machines 103 Westminster Bank 105 A Halifax Building Society 105 B District Bank 105 C Cup and Saucer 105 D Curtess 105 E Cyril Lord 105 F Redicot 107 Barclays Bank 109 Scotch Wool Shop 111 Willfrey’s 113 Newmans 115 Lloyds Bank 117 Page 119 True Form 121 - 127 F. W. Woolworth & Co. 129 - 135 Littlewoods 137 - 143 C & A Modes 145 - 147 H. Samuel 149 Etams 151 Classic Cinema 153 Saqui & Lawrence 155 - 157 G. A. Dunn and Co. 159 - 161 Montague Burton 163 - 173 Marks & Spencer 175 Meakers Menswear 177 Brents 179 Salisbury Bags 181 Picketts & Pursers 183 Kendall 185 Dolcis Shoes 187 - 189 Richard Shops 191 Smartwear 193 Taylor Goldson 195 Redundant 197 - 199 H. Samuel 201 Alexandre 203 The Crown Pubic House 205 Eastern Carpet Stores 207 - 211 British Home Stores 213 - 215 David Greig Provisions 217 Currys Cycles 219 - 223 Jays Furniture 225 Redundant 227 Suffolk Arms Public House 229 - 231 Rent A Set Radio & TV 233 Hampshire Furnishing Co. 235 - 237 J. Hepworth & Sons Clothiers 239 - 241 Tracys Provisions 116 - 122 Midland Bank 124 - 126 Polly Park 128 W. Wright 130 - 132 National Provincial Bank 134 - 142 Landport Drapery Bazaar 144 John Collier Taylor 146 George Oliver 148 J. Lyons Tea 150 Saxone 152 Jackson
Commercial Road: 154 Timothy Whites & Taylors 156 Gilberts Fashions 158 Helene Fashions 160 Freeman Hardy & Willis 162 Halfords 164 Phillips 166 Dorothy Perkins 168 - 198 Bishop Bros. Shoes 200 - 206 W. H. Smith & Son 208 - 210 Philip Bevans 212 - 214 Jim Stone Radio 216 N. & J. Wilson 218 Murdoch 220 Bennett 222 - 224 Dorothy Normans 226 Brighter Homes 228 - 230 Nigels Children’s Wear 232 Achille Serre 234 - 236 Weaver to Wearer 238 J. Davidson 240 Corbin Shoes 242 Westons 244 Redundant 246 Barratts 248 A Times Furnishing Co. 248 B Redundant 248 C Redundant 248 D Redundant 250 Swears & Wells 252 - 254 Cavendish Furniture Charlotte Street: 2 Tracey’s 4 Chas Donner 6-8 Joe Davidson 10 Smith & Vosper 12-14 Redundant 16-18 M. Gaiman 19 Eleys 21-23 Smart Weston 25-31 Victor Value Supermarket 33 Redundant 35 Goulds 37 Gates and Son 39 G. A. Coopers 63 The Shirt King 65 J. W. August 67 Franks 69 Redundant 71 Old Jack 73 Larry 75 Bryant 77 Redundant City Buildings: 1 Williams World Travel 2 Neat Wear Portsmouth 3 - 4 Direct Raincoat Co. 5 Ministry of Pensions
Lake Road: 2 Campions Bakers 4 L. G. Page 6 - 8 Coop Society Food Store Edinburgh Road: 1Brown 3 Triumph Corner 5 J. Sainsbury 7-9 Coop Building Society 11 Fleming 13 Gale Polden 2 Radio Rentals 4 Redundant 6 Leicester Permanent Building Society 8 Pearl Assurance 10-12 Leeds Permanent Building Society 14 Shipwright Arms Public House 16 Trafalgar Club 18 Park Hotel Public House 20 Royal Standard Public House 22 Royal Sailors Restaurant Arundel street: 1 Wyndham 3 Hawkins 5 Wimpy Bar 7 Warners 9 Reynolds 11-17 Supermarket 27 Entry to Bowling Alley 12-14 Weston Hart 16 King Bos. 18-22 J. Perring 24 Hudson Verity 26 Chain Landary 28 Money Shop
Diagram 9: Plan of Traders Locations near the Tricorn site. Diagram derived from: Charlotte Street Centre: Portsmouth, Traders Location Plan, p. 3.
Tricorn site shape and diagonal axis: The angle of the Dockyard wall is specific to the urban geometry. The Dockyard wall creates diagonal roads running north-east to south-west. Marketway is an example of this and Commerical Road runs approximately parallel to Marketway near the Tricorn Centre site. Hence the triangular (or tricorn hat) shaped site. The triangular nature of the site creates a diagonal axis along the hypotenuse of the site with key points at the two edges of the site. Horizontal and Vertical axis: A horizontal axis is created along Charlotte Street and a vertical axis along Landport View. This is again, due to the triangular nature of the site.
Diagram 10a: Axes of the Tricorn site. Diagram derived from: Ordnance Survey. (1970). Plan SU6400 & Plan SU6500, 1:2500. Southampton: Author.
Diagram 10b: Axes of the Tricorn site. Diagram derived from: Sketchup Model by Author.
Part II The Tricorn Centre
Photo 4: Tricorn Centre in context. Circa 1970. Source: Portsmouth History Centre.
Photo 5: Tricorn Centre and surroundings. Source: Portsmouth History Centre.
Photo 6: View of upper decks of the Tricorn Centre. Source: www.derelictplaces.co.uk_main_miscsites_8233-tricorn-center-portsmouth.html#.WPpq5x21ssk
The Tricorn Centre in Context
Diagram 11: The Tricorn Centre in context, image taken from Edinburgh Road. Diagram based upon: Photograph at University of Portsmouth Map Library.
The Tricorn Centre
Photo 7: Tricorn Centre at eye level. Source: Celia Clark.
Photo 8: Tricorn Centre skyline. Source: Celia Clark.
The Tricorn Centre was a shopping centre providing retail shopping units, a supermarket, wholesale and retail markets, car parking and a restaurant, pubs, a nightclub and housing, named as its form in plan resembles a tricorn hat.32 Its architectural context: Brutalism and the 1960s.33 Brutalism reveals the structure of buildings. “Brutalism was about ethics, not aesthetics, not about particular materials”.34 “We weren’t designing brutalist buildings. In fact I don’t know if the word even existed then, it’s been tagged on afterwards because it’s in concrete... There could only be two materials, structural materials, either concrete or steel. No way steel because a) apart from the fact that you still couldn’t get steel, I mean steel was still in short supply, but... the beams would have been about 10 feet deep... concrete is of course a very flexible, sculptural material... so the material had to be in concrete.”35
32 Owen Luder, interviewed by Amy Crellin, 12 February 2017, Westminster, London. (See Appendix A). 33 Celia Clark and Robert Cook, The Tricorn: the life and death of a sixties icon, (Portsmouth: Tricorn Books, 2010), p. 6. 34 Ibid., p. 33. 35 Owen Luder, interviewed by Amy Crellin, 12 February 2017, Westminster, London. (See Appendix A).
Diagram 12: Birds eye view looking at the Tricorn Centre from Charlotte Street (south east). Diagram based upon: CAD model by Sam Brooks.
Sculptural Form and Geometry
9 Diagram 13: Birds eye view looking at the Tricorn Centre from Marketway (north west). Diagram based upon: CAD model by Sam Brooks.
The form of the building is very sculptural in nature with coffered ceilings, parking trays, vertical towers and spiral ramps. “The main building is massively chunky in form, and the irregular skyline is punctuated by round-topped turrets.”36 “The form of the whole is highly romantic, with many planes and varied heights and... a fascinating skyline... There are curious little hemispheres on the skyline.”37 “The object of the exercise was to produce, in a very cheap material, the sculptural forms that were dynamic and exciting and would generate an atmosphere that was conducive to people actually wanting to be there.”38 - Rodney Gordon 36 David Lloyd, Buildings of Portsmouth and its Environs, (Portsmouth: City of Portsmouth, 1974), p.136. 37 Nikolaus Pevsner and David Lloyd, The Buildings of England, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, (Middlesex: Penguin Book, 1967), p. 459. 38 James Ferrone, The Tricorn, 2009 <https://vimeo.com/6122142> [accessed 6 April 2017]. 40
“All the structure is externally of concrete… sometimes smooth, sometimes aggressively rough, sometimes incised, sometimes moulded, sometimes shutter-patterned; all to some degree shabby after a few years of exposure (since concrete on the whole does not ‘weather’ pleasantly like stone).”39 The bold concrete form was designed act as a “strong neutral backcloth to the cacophony of colour, advertising, noise and clamour generated by the shops and the market place.”40
Photo 9: Stairs to parking trays. Source: Portsmouth History Centre.
Photo 10: Access towers on frontage. Source: Portsmouth History Centre.
Photo 11: Access tower to car decks. Source: Todd Hunter.
Photo 12: Access towers from car decks. Source: Todd Hunter.
Photo 13: Restaurant access towers. Source: Todd Hunter.
Photo 15: Flats. Source: RIBA Library Photo Archive.
Photo 16: Pyramid forms. Source: Celia Clark.
Photo 17: Coffered ceiling. Source: Todd Hunter.
Photo 18: Spiral ramp. Source: Portsmouth History Centre.
Photo 14: Dome towers. Source: Portsmouth History Centre.
39 David Lloyd, Buildings of Portsmouth and its Environs, (Portsmouth: City of Portsmouth, 1974), p.136. 40 Owen Luder, ‘A brutal end for a brutal building’, BBC Radio 4 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/reports/misc/tricorncentre_20040324.shtml> [accessed 22nd April 2017]. 41
6 Department Store 8 Supermarket 9 Public House 10 Shops 11 Sub Station 12 Appliance Store 13 KIosk 14 Vehicular Ramp 15 Access to Restaurant 16 Access to Flats 17 Petrol Station 18 Existing Buildings
Diagram 14a: Ground floor plan. Diagram based upon: Original Architects Drawings.
3 Wholesale Markets 4 Market Inspector 5 Shop Stores 6 Department Store 14 Vehicular Ramp 15 Access to Restaurant 16 Access to Flats 19 Franchise Pitches
Diagram 14b: First floor plan. Diagram based upon: Original Architects Drawings.
1 Car Park 2 Restaurant Over 6 Department Store 7 Flats 14 Vehicular Ramp
Diagram 14c: Second floor plan. Diagram based upon: Original Architects Drawings.
Key Tenants and Shopper Flow: The Planning of the Site
“Back into the 50s... all of these big stores wanted, much bigger units... If they wanted enormous units and to take an enormous frontage either they couldn’t get it, or if they could get it, they couldn’t afford it. So there was all the pressure on developing back in depth and that was crucial in the context of Portsmouth.”41 Furthermore, large department stores, ie. M&S were selective and would only go into regional shopping centres. The Tricorn Centre was designed to link to existing key tenants, (anchor stores), on Commercial Road, enabling them to develop backwards in depth. “The whole idea was that you would take major units through from Commercial Road so that they could enter the precinct either through M&S from Commercial Road and come through, or the other way round... We were breaking new ground in the sense that we were making a shopping precinct which was going to come back in depth.”42 Diagram 15 highlights the big department stores of Commercial Road, key tenants, with back entrances leading to the Tricorn Centre. Victor Gruen’s theory on planning of shopping centres states that smaller space tenants “depend on the pedestrian traffic created by the key tenant and other large space users”43, meaning pedestrian shoppers are attracted to key tenants, department stores and supermarkets, but smaller stores also rely on key tenants. The Tricorn Centre was designed to attract people in through the back of the large department stores, Marks and Spencer’s and British Home Stores. It was intended that people could access the complex from 3 sides, the back of key tenant stores on Charlotte Street, the Marketway bypass road, from the bus depot or vehicles entering the complex and downwards from the car parking levels. “Because people flow, shopper flow, is fundamental in shopping design, how people shop, you know the way they walk and access shops, and of course the whole idea here was that they would come on the relief road, they would get off the buses and they would go in through the supermarket.”44 Photo 19: Tricorn and key tenants. Source: Celia Clark and Robert Cook, The Tricorn: the life and death of a sixties icon, (Portsmouth: Tricorn Books, 2010), p. 3.
Diagram 15: Diagram showing the ground floor of the Tricorn Centre and the intended pedestrian shopper flow. Diagram derived from: Ordnance Survey. (1970). Plan SU6400 & Plan SU6500, 1:2500. Southampton: Author. 41 Owen Luder, interviewed by Amy Crellin, 12 February 2017, Westminster, London. (See Appendix A). 42 Ibid., (See Appendix A). 43 Victor Gruen and Larry Smith, Shopping Town U.S.A.: The Planning of Shopping Centres, (New York: Reinhold Publishing Corporation, 1960), p. 53. 44 Owen Luder, interviewed by Amy Crellin, 12 February 2017, Westminster, London. (See Appendix A).
The Tricorn Centre as Layers
“it is a very simple concept of layers”45
Diagram 16a: Generic parti of the layers of the Tricorn Centre.
The former surface car park that the Tricorn was built on was intended for a wholesale market with a car parking deck on top. Luder convinced planning officer George Heath to instead move the wholesale market onto the first floor, put shopping on the ground floor, with an overhead surface road that incorporated car parking on top. “The proposal has a simple, but for its time, advanced concept. The wholesale market is raised to an upper level leaving the ground clear for a pedestrian shopping precinct, which links through to the town’s major shopping area – Commercial Road.”46 Architectural form is generic when “in its original state”. It is specific when it “assumes finality having been manipulated and organised to satisfy the functional demands of the programme and the particular confines or opportunities presented by the site.”47 The generic parti illustrates the idea of layers of functions. This diagram evolves to a specific parti with the addition of enough car parking levels to satisfy the amount needed for shoppers and two spiral ramps for vehicular access, dictated by key points of the site and easy accessibility via the bypass road, Marketway.
Diagram 16b: Specific parti of the layers of the Tricorn Centre.
45 Owen Luder, interviewed by Amy Crellin, 12 February 2017, Westminster, London. (See Appemdix A). 46 Alan Balfour, Portsmouth, (London: Studio Vista Limited, 1970), p. 86. 47 Geoffrey H., Baker, Design Strategies in Architecture: An Approach to the Analysis of Form, 2nd edn (Oxon: Routledge, 2006), p. 70. 46
Diagram 17a: Front elevation of the Tricorn Centre, looking south east. Diagram based upon: Original Architects Drawings in Portsmouth History Centre.
Diagram 17b: Back elevation of the Tricorn Centre, looking north. Diagram based upon: Original Architects Drawings in Portsmouth History Centre.
“They (the drawings) represent the concept”48 The elevations show the layers of the floor levels, expressing the horizontal layers whilst including all the other functions of the complex, ie. the restaurant, housing and vertical access towers.
Diagram 17c: Side elevation of the Tricorn Centre, looking west. Diagram based upon: Original Architects Drawings in Portsmouth History Centre. 48 Owen Luder, interviewed by Amy Crellin, 12 February 2017, Westminster, London. (See Appendix A).
Horizontal and Vertical Planes
Diagram 18a: Diagram showing the horizontal and vertical nature of the courtyard of the Tricorn Centre. Diagram based upon: Perspective Sketch by Gordon Cullen.
“The effects of the horizontal ‘trays’ of car parking space separated by dark space are dramatically exploited as are, still more, the concrete driveways up the round towers at angles.”49 The building forms a series of horizontal planes and vertical elements. Moments within the buildings highlight this. The courtyard perspective shows the horizontal planes: the floor levels and parking trays in the distance and the vertical planes: the stair and lift towers.
49 David Lloyd, Buildings of Portsmouth and its Environs, (Portsmouth: City of Portsmouth, 1974), p.136.
Diagram 18b: Diagram showing the horizontal and vertical nature of the front elevation of the Tricorn Centre. Diagram based upon: Photograph from Architectural Design 1966.
The front elevation perspective shows the horizontal planes: the first and second floor levels and the vertical planes: the access tower. The dogleg staircases and spiral ramps manipulate the form, introducing diagonals that add dynamism to the building form.
The Central Courtyard
The design was based around the central square / courtyard placement. “That was the key, the nucleus.” with “various routes into the square”50. The key anchor stores, the department store and supermarket, were arranged to attract pedestrian shoppers into the complex, positioned adjacent to the central square. “The main supermarket was on one side of the square, department store on the left, the other major building there with the nightclub on top, and the square was the access point”51. “The medieval city market square was the city’s centre, not only geographically but socially and commercially, religiously and culturally. The City Hall and Guild Halls were placed there. The Cathedral, the merchants’ and craftsmen’s stalls and stores surrounded it. The open centre area became in turn the market place, the fair ground and the entertainment centre for the citizenry.”52 The central square of the Tricorn resembles a basic town square concept, derived from the medieval city market square. The architect intended the Charlotte Street market to be moved into the square, the “natural thing for it... that’s where the market should have gone - and that would then be the absolute hub, focal point, the busy busy busy.”53 however this didn’t happen.
Diagram 19a: The Tricorn Centre is designed around the central courtyard. Diagram based upon: Photograph from Portsmouth History Centre.
50 Owen Luder, interviewed by Amy Crellin, 12 February 2017, Westminster, London. (See Appendix A). 51 Ibid. (See Appendix A). 52 Victor Gruen and Larry Smith, Shopping Town U.S.A.: The Planning of Shopping Centres, (New York: Reinhold Publishing Corporation, 1960), p. 18. 53 Owen Luder, interviewed by Amy Crellin, 12 February 2017, Westminster, London. (See Appendix A).
Diagram 19b: Central Courtyard Perspective. Diagram based upon: Perspective drawing by Gordon Cullen.
The generic parti diagram for the Tricorn plan is a square with routes flowing into it. The evolved, specific parti has manipulated routes with twisted paths, creating â€˜vistasâ€™ though the design. Multiple routes are formed, taking pedestrians in and out of the complex and to the back entrance of Commercial Road key tenants including Marks and Spencer, C&A Modes, Littlewood and Woolworths.
Diagram 19c: Generic parti diagram of the Tricorn courtyard.
Diagram 18d: Specific parti diagram of the Tricorn courtyard.
The Casbah Concept
“The shape of the Tricorn as seen from the road to the north-west suggests allusions both to an Arabic city and to an oil refinery, expressed in the medium of concrete.”54
Photo 20: Tangier casbah. Source: https://www.delcampe.net.
Luder originally intended the complex to be named, the Casbah. He references Tangier and Morocco as casbahs he had travelled to. The characteristics of casbahs comparable to the Tricorn are their inward looking nature, narrow streets which open to large spaces and their irregular and picturesque form. The Tricorn seeks to draw shoppers in from the outside, so it is introverted. It has narrow streets leading to a large central square and an irregular, sculptural quality to its form. “the whole idea was to have the very close, quite narrow alleyways then opening up into the square - opening up into big spaces, and that is the essence of the casbah, if you go through a casbah that is what it is like.”55 Diagram 20 shows narrow pedestrian alleyways into the Tricorn central square, at ground floor level, reflecting the casbah concept. One of the criticisms of the Tricorn, was that it didn’t feel very safe to walk down the alleyways. Photo 22 shows a dark, artificially lit alleyway.
Photo 21: The Tricorn roofscape resonates with Tangier casbah’s form. Source: http://lucymelford.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/brutalism-tricorn-centre-in-portsmouth.html.
54 David Lloyd, Buildings of Portsmouth and its Environs, (Portsmouth: City of Portsmouth, 1974), p.136. 55 Owen Luder, interviewed by Amy Crellin, 12 February 2017, Westminster, London. (See Appendix A). 52
Photo 23: Alleyway of Tricorn, quite dark. Source: http://lucymelford.blogspot. co.uk/2016/06/brutalism-tricorn-centre-in-portsmouth.html
Photo 23b: Alleyway of Tricorn, maze-like quality. Source: https://web.archive.org/ web/20131208161654/http://vodex.net/ tricorn/
Photo 22: Plan of souk at Aleppo. Source: https://www.delcampe.net.
Diagram 20 shows narrow pedestrian alleyways into the Tricorn central square, at ground floor level, reflecting the casbah concept. One of the criticisms of the Tricorn, was that it didn’t feel very safe to walk down the alleyways. Photo 22 shows a dark, artificially lit alleyway. “The Tricorns internal maze-like architecture, beloved of muggers, vandals and perverts over the years.”56 Garrick Palmer, a photographer and enthusiast of the Tricorn said “I just like the building, I just like the shape of it, I like everything about it. When I walk around it, I think it’s visually very exciting but people don’t feel secure in this type of architecture. They feel threatened really. Sometimes when I come down here and I’m alone I feel threatened.”57
Alleyway (Photo 23)
Diagram 20: Pedestrian routes in the Tricorn Centre at ground floor level, leading to the central courtyard. Similar to Aleppo with narrow routes and open squares. Diagram based upon: Original Architects Drawings in Portsmouth History Centre.
56 ‘The Tricorn Page’, The Wayback Machine <https://web.archive.org/web/20131208161654/http://vodex.net/tricorn/> [accessed 23rd April 2017]. 57 James Ferrone, The Tricorn, 2009 <https://vimeo.com/6122142> [accessed 6 April 2017]. 53
Diagram 21a: Evolution of the Tricorn Centre Complex, ground floor. Diagram based upon: Plan from Architectural Design 1966.
1. The starting point for the design of the Tricorn Centre are the key elements attracting the flow of shoppers through the centre. The central courtyard is placed with the department store and supermarket, (key tenants), adjacent. The spiral ramps are situated at key points of the site. 2. Buildings are placed in the remaining areas around the courtyard in an L shape, defined by the axes and geometrical nature of the site. 3. Alleyways are created into the courtyard, conceptually driven by the casbah precedent, determining individual buildings for retail. 4. Distorted routes with vistas are conceived by extruding buildings in plan. 5. Multi-storey elements, the department store and housing rise above the ground floor level.
Diagram 21b: Evolution of the Tricorn Centre Complex, first floor. Diagram based upon: Plan from Architectural Design 1966.
Diagram 21c: Evolution of the Tricorn Centre Complex, second floor. Diagram based upon: Plan from Architectural Design 1966.
6. The first floor deck is limited by the taller building elements on the ground floor and is pierced above the courtyard, allowing daylight below. The spiral ramps connect to the first floor providing vertical vehicular access. 7. Market stalls and retail storage units are placed on the first floor and the shape of the deck is sculpted. 8. The second floor is also defined by the taller buildings, courtyard and spiral ramps. The shape of the second floor deck loosely follows the first floor deck. 9. The deck is reduced in size to allow daylight to the first floor whilst creating variation in form. 10. The restaurant is placed high up on the second floor deck allowing views around Portsmouth. It’s position above the central courtyard means it can be vertically accessed from the courtyard. The additional parking ‘tray’ levels are situated at the northern spiral ramp, the most convenient location for cars as the majority of vehicles will come from the north of the bypass road, Marketway.
Vertical Pedestrian Access
Diagram 22a: Pedestrian vertical access at ground floor level. Diagram based upon: Plans in Architectural Design 1966.
Diagram 22b: Pedestrian vertical access at first floor level. Diagram based upon: Plans in Architectural Design 1966.
Diagram 22c: Pedestrian vertical access at second floor level. Diagram based upon: Plans in Architectural Design 1966.
Diagram 23a: Vehicular access into the Tricorn Centre via. the spiral ramps at ground floor level. Diagram based upon: Plans in Architectural Design 1966.
Diagram 23b: Vehicular movement in the Tricorn Centre at first floor level. Diagram based upon: Plans in Architectural Design 1966.
Diagram 23c: Vehicular movement in the Tricorn Centre at second floor level. Diagram based upon: Plans in Architectural Design 1966.
The Urban Problems
Luder argues key reasons for the Tricorn’s decline were due to site issues. The bypass road was built 15 years after the development and the bus depot moved to the southern side of Commercial Road, reducing shopper flow. “The surrounding road the ring road was very important as that was bringing in busses. But you see what happened in the end. They pedestrianised Commercial Road, they didn’t build that road, so people were coming into Commercial Road and then if they wanted to get through into the precinct, they’ve got to cross the Charlotte Street market.”58 Due to a historic charter, Charlotte Street market would not move into the central square, creating a barrier for natural pedestrian flow, “it provided an obstacle, it didn’t prevent people them, but it provided an obstacle... we wanted a natural flow through and they would flow through to the square, they would come in from the surface road into the square and the market.”59
Photo 24: The Tricorn Centre and Cascades. Source: www.portsmouth.co.uk_heritage_a-pair-of-cathedrals-and-temple-to-modern-living-1-6722131.
Economic change, “ 1966, the government had changed, the economy was tipping, the retail market was suddenly nothing like as buoyant”60, meant the large department store unit was never let. Alec Coleman allowed the supermarket to move to the Charlotte Street frontage instead of on the intended Marketway, bypass road elevation, creating another barrier into the complex, “that of course destroyed... the concept of having the supermarket right at the back. Because people flow, shopper flow, is fundamental in shopping design, how people shop, you know the way they walk and access shops, and of course the whole idea here was that they would come on the relief road, they would get off the buses and they would go in through the supermarket.”61 Rodney Gordon suggests the scheme broke the first rule of the ‘Developer Rule Book’, “a new shopping project had to be built as an extension to an existing successful shopping street. Not even the wrong end of the shopping street was allowed... Charlotte street, a very narrow secondary shopping alley contained market stalls, and on the other side by an impenetrable dual carriageway.”62 He suggests the Tricorn was really an ‘out-of town shopping centre’, so key tenants did not lease the larger units resulted in the smaller units also not leasing He also said “it was never used for the purposes for which it was designed, it never was a shopping centre.”63 Later Cascades, a new shopping centre opened in 1989 creating another barrier to the Tricorn Centre. The back entrances to the key tenant stores of Commercial now opened into Cascades rather than the Tricorn Centre. Key tenant stores in the northern end of Commercial Road, ie. British Home Store, moved to Cascades, meaning less incentive for pedestrian shoppers to go to the north. “The council allowed Taylor Woodrow to build the big covered shopping centre along side, that killed the shopping potential in... (the Tricorn Centre)”64
Diagram 24: Diagram showing the ground floor of the Tricorn Centre and the site problems. Diagram derived from: Ordnance Survey. (1991). Plan SU6400NW, 1:1250. Southampton: Author. Ordnance Survey. (1990). Plan SU6400NE, 1:1250. Southampton: Author. Ordnance Survey. (1986). Plan SU6400SW, 1:1250. Southampton: Author.
58 Owen Luder, interviewed by Amy Crellin, 12 February 2017, Westminster, London. (See Appendix A). 59 Ibid. (See Appendix A). 60 Ibid. (See Appendix A). 61 Ibid. (See Appendix A). 62 Rodney Gordon, ‘Modern Architecture for the Masses’, The Journal of the Twentieth Century Society: Twentieth Century Architecture: The Sixties, 6 (2002), 78. 63 James Ferrone, The Tricorn, 2009 <https://vimeo.com/6122142> [accessed 6 April 2017]. 64 Owen Luder, interviewed by Amy Crellin, 12 February 2017, Westminster, London. (See Appendix A).
Activity Level Decline on Commercial Road
The level of activity on Commercial Road, particularly by pedestrian shoppers in the mid 1960s and the 1990s can be compared to explain reduction in flow of pedestrian shoppers to the Tricorn Centre. The diagrams show greater activity in the northern end of Commercial Road in the 1960s than in the 1990s. In the 60s, the Commercial Road’s key tenants had back entrances, enabling pedestrians to walk through to the Tricorn Centre. The Tricorn Centre would have also attracted pedestrian activity to this side of the city centre. The southern side of Commercial Road near Guildhall and the train station were also heavily bombed, detracting pedestrians to that area in the 60s. The decline in activity in the 90s is partially due to Luder’s reasons for the Tricorn Centres decline. Additionally, there was greater variety of shops in the northern end in the 1960s, including department store, British Home stores, a key tenant, attracting pedestrian activity according to Gruen’s anchor store theory. British Home store later moved into Cascades shopping centre. The southern side of Commercial Road near Guildhall and the train station was redeveloped. Furthermore the position of the train station meaning the pedestrian shoppers traveling via public transport enter Commercial Road from the southern end. The decline in level of activity to the northern end of Commercial Road results in fewer shoppers accessing the Tricorn Centre.
Diagram 25a: Activity levels near Commercial Road and Tricorn site circa 1990. Diagram derived from: Ordnance Survey. (1991). Plan SU6400NW, 1:1250. Southampton: Author. Ordnance Survey. (1990). Plan SU6400NE, 1:1250. Southampton: Author. Ordnance Survey. (1986). Plan SU6400SW, 1:1250. Southampton: Author.
Diagram 25b: Activity levels near Commercial Road and Tricorn site circa mid 1960’s. Diagram derived from: Ordnance Survey. (1970). Plan SU6400 & Plan SU6500, 1:2500. Southampton: Author.
Portsmouth, No Longer a Regional Shopping Centre
Portsmouth also became less attractive to shoppers. “When you get through to when they knocked it down, a lot of those town in the southern part of Hampshire have got their own bustling modern shopping centres. Southampton has built - its now the main regional centre, and the M27 - the main coastal road motorway, with that opening up - and now the problem that Portsmouth has got is it’s catchment area for shoppers doesn’t really go anywhere beyond the island.”65 Diagram 26 shows West Quay, Southampton, today’s regional shopping centre in Hampshire.
Diagram 26: New regional shopping centre at West Quay, Southampton.
65 Owen Luder, interviewed by Amy Crellin, 12 February 2017, Westminster, London. (See Appendix A).
Design problems Vehicle size change meant the spiral ramps, designed for the largest vehicles in the 60s became too small and awkward to manoeuvre. “In the end the overhead market, the wholesale market, a problem was getting the much larger lorries up. They also serviced the shops as well. You had this problem with servicing.”66 Detailing was neglected by the architect, flashings were not included for aesthetic reasons. “I think the only mistake that we made was not in fact, to put in the flashing. If you think about the design of the building, if you put lead or zinc flashings everywhere. God, I mean - the cost and also the effect it would have on the purity of the design... you have to design according to the climate. And the principle is you throw the water off. That was a major... That didn’t help appearance wise. If you went to Portsmouth on a wet dreary day with the same concrete it didn’t look very bright.”67 Other Problems The building “wasn’t maintained properly... the council allowed it to deteriorate... property owners have an idea that concrete is a material that you don’t have to look after. You do. All buildings start to deteriorate from the day it’s put up... unless you look after it, it will deteriorate. And in fact, if you deliberately don’t look after it, it will deteriorate even faster. Which is what happened.”68 The six council flats required by the council, “were always a cause of trouble, because they never looked after them properly, like most councils.”69 Unpopularity of the building was also a problem. “It is fashion. And I’ve no doubt at all that if the Tricorn and the Get Carter car park and the Rocket... if they hadn’t been knocked down they would now be listed... What they should have done kept them. Redevelop them, as they were outdated... having knocked it down on the basis that they would put up something much better, they haven’t put anything up at all.”70
“I‘ve had a son, I’ve lost him, I’ve lost a wife, that’s anguish. This is not only sad, it’s stupid.”70
66 Owen Luder, interviewed by Amy Crellin, 12 February 2017, Westminster, London. (See Appendix A). 67 Ibid. (See Appendix A). 68 Ibid. (See Appendix A). 69 Ibid. (See Appendix A). 70 Ibid. (See Appendix A). 71 Ibid. (See Appendix A).
Owen Luder, 2017
Why was the Tricorn Centre built and what were its conceptual ideas? This study has revealed that the Tricorn was built and conceived in response to its contexts. Historically, city centre bombing during WWII, created redevelopment need for the Tricorn site. Commercially, the Tricorn was built during an economic upturn, increasing the need for retail facilities. Portsmouth was a regional shopping centre and the site presented potential to create a shopping centre, built back in depth to connect to existing key tenants of Commercial Road and provide new retail, market and car parking facilities. The functions of the building were defined by the developer who wanted a shopping centre but also the city councilâ€™s requirements for a market with car parking (due to the increase of private vehicle ownership) and housing. It was also built during a time when there was an increase in the use of vehicles. Although the Tricornâ€™s form is complex, there are simple conceptual ideas behind the scheme. Firstly, it was a shopping centre built backwards in depth, providing more affordable shopping units for shops, intending to draw a flow of pedestrian shoppers in from three directions, the back entrances of key tenants on Commercial Road, the bypass road, Marketway where the bus depot was supposed to be located and from its car parking levels. Secondly it has layers defining its form. A number of horizontal planes, the floor levels, are connected with sculptural vertical access elements, ie. The access towers with staircases for pedestrian access to each level and spiral ramps for vehicular access and servicing. Thirdly, like casbahs, the centre is built around a central square, accessed via narrower, twisting alleyways with vistas, it is introverted and it has an irregular, picturesque form. The square is the nucleus, key tenants are positioned around the square to attract a flow of shoppers in.
Why did the Tricorn Centre decline, resulting in its demolition? The Tricorn was not successful for a several reasons. To understand the Tricorn’s decline, an understanding of how the site changed over time is vital. Arguably the main reason for its decline, that Luder expresses, is due to its contextual conditions rather than the building form itself. Whilst creating analytical diagrams of the building, it has been discovered that the complex could have worked from an architectural, spatial point of view. Reasons why the conceptual of the building didn’t work within its context: For the Tricorn to thrive, a key concept was pedestrian shopper flow into the complex. The Tricorn opened during a recession meaning big department stores, ‘key tenants’ or ‘anchor stores’ never moved into the complex. These key tenants were vital to attract a flow of people into the complex. The repositioning of the supermarket from Marketway, front elevation to the Charlotte Street, back elevation, by the developer Alec Coleman, hindered shopper flow through the Tricorn. Market traders never moved into the central courtyard of the Tricorn, instead they remained on Charlotte Street, creating another barrier for shopper flow. The bypass road, Marketway was not built by the council for 15 years, meaning vehicles could not access the Tricorn as intended. Later, Cascades, a new shopping store opened, closing off the back entrances of the Commercial Road key tenants, creating a greater barrier to shopper flow into the Tricorn. The bus depot was repositioned on the southern side of Commerical Road. Rodney suggests the building was places on the wrong side of the city centre, on a secondary shopping street and it was not used for its purpose. Other contextual reasons for the decline in the building: The number of pedestrian shoppers in the northern end of Commercial Road declined by the 1990’s, due to fewer shops at the northern end and key tenant stores. British Home Store moved into Cascades shopping centre. Public transport links are also located in the southern end of Commercial Road, including the bus stop depot and the train station. This decreased activity in the northern end of Commercial Road means a reduced flow of shoppers near the Tricorn. Portsmouth was a regional shopping centre in the 1960s, but later this changed. West Quay in Southampton became the new regional shopping centre meaning Portsmouth was no longer Hampshire’s major shopping centre, attracting fewer shoppers. Furthermore, Portsmouth is an island therefore a ‘dead end’ and not centrally located for convenient access to shoppers from Hampshire. Economies of scale in the retail industry means today there are more larger chain stores and fewer family owned shops than the Tricorn was designed for, however had the Tricorn still been in use today, partition walls between stores would simply be knocked through. Design reasons which meant the building didn’t work: The spiral ramps used for vertical vehicular access were designed for the largest vehicles of the time. The regulations for the size of vehicles changed and the spiral ramps became too small for large lorries to enter to the first floor, where shop storage units were located. The detailing of the building was neglected, designing without flashings for aesthetic reasons. The UK’s damp climate resulted in stains on the exposed concrete surface. The casbah’s central square was contextually appropriate but the narrow alleyways felt dangerous for some people. Finally, insufficient daylight reached the courtyard due to overshadowing. Other reasons for failure of the building: The city council required housing within the Tricorn. However insufficient council maintenance meant the flats became uninhabitable. The building also fell into disrepair. Unpopularity of brutalist buildings amongst the public and councillors was also an issue.
How successful is the analytical diagram methodology of analysis? This form of analysis has been relatively successful for a number of reasons: Firstly, it preserves the Tricorn’s ideas, which is vital. English Heritage chief executive, Simon Thurley, says the postwar ‘brutalist’ buildings failed by the listing process and demolished leave “a black hole in architectural history.”72 Once a building is demolished, it can never be recovered, therefore it is important to understand reasons for a decline so that lessons can be learnt from the building. Secondly, there is no former published analysed through analytical diagrams of the Tricorn. Geoffrey Bakers analytical diagramming principles have been applied, situating the building within Baker’s three key factors for analysis. The site conditions, the functional requirements and the cultural context. Due to this study being about one building, it has taken his analytical principles further, exploring one building in more depth and situating it within more context, (historic context particularly). It’s contextual analysis goes further than Baker’s does, (since Baker’s aims to provide a broad range of analysed examples). Thirdly, it confirmed and illuminated the conceptual and spatial reasons for the Tricorn’s development and decline, building upon Clark’s ideas, but providing a greater spatial understanding. Discussing the key ideas Owen Luder, and diagramming the building context uncovered one of the major reasons for the Tricorn’s decline was due to the conceptual site / planning diagram not working. Shoppers did not flow into the Tricorn as intended. A strong understanding of the concept of the Tricorn, gained through the process of speaking to Luder and drawing the diagrams helped uncover the problems. Fourthly, there is limited spatial and conceptual research on the complex. Many resources describe the Tricorn’s form alongside photographs, eg. 1960s architects articles, however there is no published formal analysis of the Tricorn’s form to uncover its conceptual and spatial ideas, making this study a vital source of information for this field of study. The essence of the building has been uncovered through rigorous diagramming which ensure the ideas are accessible. This work is particularly useful to architects and architecture students wishing to understand the simple architectural concepts which are unapparent when observing the Tricorn as a whole. Although, this form of analysis has been relatively successful, there are criticisms of the technique: Firstly, the Tricorn is not covered in its entirety, eg. interior aspects of the buildings are not addressed. It looks at the complex as an abstraction and focuses on the complex’s conceptual ideas within its site. With greater research, more could be added, eg. how the stairwells or interior work. Hundreds of detailed drawings were found in the Portsmouth History Centre, which would need an extended study to evaluate. Not all drawings could be studied in detail, a simple sketchup model had to suffice within the limit of the task. Secondly, although Owen Luder was interviewed and many of his ideas are used within the study, there is some interpretation of the Tricorn by the author and some ideas illustrated which are not necessarily how the Tricorn was designed.
72 Dalya Alberge, ‘Save our brutalist masterpieces, says top heritage expert’, Guardian, 13 November 2010 <https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/nov/13/save-brutalist-buildings-warns-simon-thurley> [accessed 6 April 2017].
During the process of resurrecting the Tricorn Centre to analyse and preserve its ideas, there have been many difficulties: Firstly, there were difficulties making a sketchup model of a demolished building. There is limited data and a lot of time was spent gathering resources, photographs, and looking through vast collections of drawings and various sources; newspaper articles, architects magazines, books, web resources, films and drawings to understand the Tricorn. Secondly, the Tricorn is an extremely challenging building to understand. It is very large and extremely complicated in form with many parts to the complex. It is one of the most complicated buildings I have seen and studied, so was difficult and it took a long time to generate a spatial understanding of the building. The two dimensional drawings, plans and sections are challenging to comprehend without ‘resurrecting’ the building through the construction of a CAD model. Thirdly, although the architect remembered a lot about the project, it was difficult to uncover the design process that he used as the building was designed almost 60 years ago. Fourthly, it was difficult to decide how to analyse the building and its context and how to represent it. For instance, the bypass road has changed over time and it was necessary to decide whether to illustrate the building as it was intended to work within its context, or in line with how the contextual conditions actually were. Another factor was whether to illustrate it according to todays contextual conditions or contextual conditions of the past. More generally, it is challenging to generate a spatial understanding of a demolished building. It would obviously have been easier if it was possible to walk around and experience the building in person. This would have helped enhance a spatial understanding and the conceptual ideas would have been acquired more easily. More specific photographs could be used to generate visual information to illustrate specific points in the study. Being a native to Portsmouth has been advantageous. Although the Tricorn has been demolished, the author already has a strong understanding of the context of the former Tricorn site. If this process of spatial understanding was applied to another building, I believe it would be easier to develop a spatial understanding for another building, primarily because the Tricorn Centre is extremely complex in form. In comparison, most other buildings are much simpler in form. The process of research, analysis and presentation undertaken and generation of diagrams to simplifying this building has contributed to the author’s understanding of formal architectural techniques. Development in research skills necessary to find information needed to understand a building of this scale and complexity have been acquired, but fundamentally the author has learnt to abstract a building form so the essence of a building can be understood. Architectural presentation skills have been developed, particularly where two and three dimensional drawings are read sequentially and conjunctionally to collectively communicate given ideas.These skills are invaluable presentation skills for a designer but particular in the studio modules of the course and largely due to an in-depth study of Geoffrey Baker’s book and using similar presentation techniques.
Alberge, Dalya, ‘Save our brutalist masterpieces, says top heritage expert’, Guardian, 13 November 2010 <https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/nov/13/save-brutalist-buildings-warns-simon-thurley> [accessed 6 April 2017] Baker, Geoffrey H., Design Strategies in Architecture: An Approach to the Analysis of Form, 2nd edn, (London: Routledge, 2006) Balfour, Alan, Portsmouth, (London: Studio Vista Limited, 1970), pp. 86-88 Bettsworth, Richard, ‘At last... blot on city landscape is going’, The Portsmouth News, 17th June 1999, p. 5 Ching, Francis D K, Architecture: form, space & order, 3rd edn, (New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2007) Clark, Celia, Portsmouth Society Annual Report 2004, (Portsmouth: The Portsmouth Society, 2004) <http://www.portsmouthsociety.org.uk/ docs2004/report2004.htm> [accessed 6 April 2017] Clark, Celia and Robert Cook, The Tricorn: the life and death of a sixties icon, (Portsmouth: Tricorn Books, 2010) Clark, Roger H. and Michael Pause, Precedents in Architecture: Analytical Diagrams, Formative Ideas and Partis, 4th edn, (New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2012) Ferrone, James, The Tricorn, 2009 <https://vimeo.com/6122142> [accessed 6 April 2017] Gordon, Rodney, ‘Modern Architecture for the Masses’, The Journal of the Twentieth Century Society: Twentieth Century Architecture: The Sixties, 6 (2002), 71-80 Gruend, Victor and Larry Smith, Shopping Town U.S.A.: The Planning of Shopping Centre, (New York: Reinhold Publishing Corporation, 1960), p. 53 Geng, Philipp, ‘Why Portsmouth was a major target’, WWII – Battle over Britain: Portsmouth and the Blitz, July 1940 – July 1944 <http://portsmouthblitz.co.uk/?page=main> [accessed 10th November 2016] Kidd, James, ‘Death, Brutalism and pre-pubertal sex: Jonathan Meades embraces some difficult subjects in his TV series and memoir’, Independent, 24 February 2014 <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/death-brutalism-and-pre-pubertal-sex-jonathan-meades-embraces-some-difficult-subjects-in-his-tv-9144497.html> [accessed 6 April 2017] Luder, Owen, ‘A brutal end for a brutal building’, BBC Radio 4 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/reports/misc/tricorncentre_20040324.shtml> [accessed 22nd April 2017]. Maddox, David, ‘It;s ta-ta to the Tricorn - no really...’, The Portsmouth News, 15th November 2003, p. 14 Moore, Rowan, ‘How Britain is failing its modernist masterpeices’, Guardian, 29 May 2009 <https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/ may/29/modernist-architecture-demolished-listed-buildings> [accessed 6 April 2017] Pevsner, Nikolaus and David Lloyd, The Buildings of England, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1967) Lloyd, David, Buildings of Portsmouth and Its Environs, (Portsmouth: City of Portsmouth, 1974) Luder, Owen, ‘Eve of destruction’, Building, 269 (2004), 39 Owen, Chris, ‘Tricorn rebel insists: I’m no nutter’, The Portsmouth News, 27 March 2004, p.15. Radford, Antony, Selen Markoc and Amit Srivastava, The Elements of Modern Architecture: Understanding Contemporary Buildings, (London: Thames & Hudson, 2014) Stedman, John, Portsmouth Reborn: Deconstruction and Reconstruction, 1939-1974, (Portsmouth: Portsmouth City Council, 1995) Unwin, Simon, Analysing Architecture, 4th edn, (London: Routledge, 2014) Weaver, Matt, ‘Country’s Ugliest Building to be Torn Down’, Guardian, 10 March 2004 <https://www.theguardian.com/society/2004/mar/10/urbandesign.arts> [accessed 6 April 2017] Webb, Michael, Architecture in Britain Today, (Middlesex: Hamlyn House for Country Life Books, 1969), pp. 149-150 Walters, David. ‘Form and Content: The Analysis of an Urban Setting’, Oz. < http://dx.doi.org/10.4148/2378-5853.1176> [accessed 10th November 2016]
Unknown Author, ‘Charlotte Street development, Portsmouth’, Architectural Design, 34 (1964), 281- 282 Unknown Author, ‘Shops + market complex: Charlotte St, Portsmouth’, Architectural Design, 36 (1966), 537- 547 Unknown Author, ‘Shopping Complex and Wholesale Market, Portsmouth’, Architectural Review, (1964), 61 Unknown Author, ‘New Market: First Stage is Opened’, Hampshire Telegraph, 26th May 1966. Unknown Author, ‘Portsmouth’, Wikipedia <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portsmouth> [accessed 10th November 2016]. Unknown Author, ‘Residents flatten ugly building’, BBC News, 21st March 2004 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hampshire/dorset/3555555.stm> [accessed 22nd April 2017].
Miscellaneous Resources Original Architects Drawings from Portsmouth History Centre Photograph Archive at Portsmouth History Centre Celia Clark Personal Collection of Tricorn Centre materials Todd Hunter Personal Photography Collection CAD model screenshots by Sam Brooks CAD model by Alex Counsell Email from Linda Burton to Portsmouth Society, 13th Febraury 2004. Email from Owen Luder to Amy Crellin, 23rd September 2015.
Appendix A Interview with Owen Luder, conducted by Amy Crellin 12th February 2017 Westminster, London
AC: Can you tell me about the background to the Tricorn Centre? OL: What happened with Portsmouth and in the late 50s early 60s, the revolution - the retail development was changing. Pre-war retail development had been a strip development along the front of a main street, either a minor street or a major high street, and indeed in Portsmouth when they rebuilt Commercial Road after the bombing, they rebuilt it as a shopping street with shops on either side. Now that was the traditional, then you’d have maybe Woolworths and a Marks and Spencer, (M&S), as the main thing. Now that was the standard pre-war retail development. What happened of course was suddenly - retail - people never had it so good. You’ve got more money to spend than ever before, something that in all sections of society - there was more money to spend. Retail is all about the number of people, and the amount of money they can spend in the shops - otherwise nobody got any money to spend, there aren’t any shops, its a natural thing. And what was happening of course was that we also had the development of what was then the major stores. Marks and Spencer were a very good example, in what was becoming, what were called, regional shopping centres. And the regional shopping centres - previously Woolworths would go almost anyway and M&S were fairly selective. M&S, in the back end of the 50s, had a policy they would only go into regional centres and they wanted, all of these big stored wanted, much bigger units. So, not only could they not really get them - if they wanted enormous units and to take an enormous frontage either they couldn’t get it, or if they could get it, they couldn’t afford it. So there was all the pressure on developing back in depth and that was crucial in the context of Portsmouth and development back in depth. But of course, also what happened, you suddenly got the growth of a whole lot of other, which previously would have been relatively small shops, becoming major, what they called, multiple tenants, who had shopping units, big units, all over the country, not just in one place. AC: Sort of like a chain? OL: Yeah, a chain. Now, you can’t even accept that we didn’t have those, but we didn’t. AC: Yeah, I did look at some maps of the old commercial road and I did see that there were - it sort of surprised me that there were so many small units of various, you know surnames, and nowadays it’s not really anything like that, and I was thinking to myself, gosh WHSmith is actually, it was a family, you know, it’s a name - nowadays its all chains. OL: It became all very big and of course the supermarkets started - I mean Tescos in 1958 I did design the Tesco supermarket in Pimlico, it was 4000 sq. feet, it was the biggest Tesco supermarket at that time, so you had this explosion of - they all need spaces, and of course the space they needed - the further you went back, the cheaper it was. Valuers had an old way of valuing shops, the first 20 feet was more valuable than the next 40, up to 70 feet, after 70 feet it didn’t have any shopping value, but of course all that changed. AC: Right, was that because they were more concentrated on the advertisement of the shop window. OL: No, well you know, marketing became advertising, television, you know commercial television, it all started exploding. And one other very significant thing which was most significant was in fact pedestrianised shopping, suddenly the problem of the motor car - in front of shops - and in the early days multiple traders - their organisations, were against pedestrianisation, because they said nobody will come unless they can park their car, and drive in front of the shop. One of earliest pedestrianised schemes was Coventry - Coventry was rebuilt in the early 1950s - the shopping centre was rebuilt - so suddenly you get this combination of going back in depth and pedestrianisation. But also, if pedestrianisation was in fact a reaction against the car, you then had no car parking. The car park I did, the infamous Get Carter car park I did in Gateshead should never have been knocked down. When I presented to what was then Gateshead city council, the car park over the top, because there was nothing else I could put over the top of the shopping, when I said that, one of the councillors said, but who’s gonna pay for car parking, when they can park for nothing in the streets. I said I was in Morocco 6 months ago and they’ve got parking metres there already so it might be time. So you’ve got this combination, because at the back end of the 50’s, you’ve got this explosion. And what happened then was now, against this background of course, and I’ve always been a radical reformer, I mean, you know I’ve have a very successful career, i’m not boasting that’s just fact, you and I wouldn’t be sitting here if I hadn’t. One of the reasons for that success is I always reckon that I have been thinking a pace ahead of what happened. AC: Yeah, it’s really interesting what you’re saying, because you can see how, that sort of developed into this radical idea - the Tricorn. OL: Quite radical - at that time, my career, I mean I always recon the Architects Journal wanted me to do an article in the backend of the 80s when everything was collapsing - I mean you’ve been in practice since every boom and bust since the war, you’ve not only seemed to have survived, you seem to have prospered, would you write an article [Architect Journal saying that]. And I said, I won’t write an article but you want three words, and they said “well, what are the three words?” cause we need the article, and I said “keep ahead of the game”. You mustn’t be in a situation waking up one morning and suddenly realising it’s happened, it’s too late, you’ve missed the boat. And for that reason Portsmouth was pushing out the frontiers, I mean in that period, my practice grew rapidly, because we’d anticipated what was happening and what was needed. And when we came to Portsmouth, what happened with Portsmouth - I had this client Alec Colman, who wasn’t really a developer, he was a dealer, and I never tried to sell good architecture to him because he wouldn’t have known what I was talking about, I had to show him the bottom line, my scheme was going to be - give him a better bottom line profit that anywhere else, thats hows I managed to persuade him. So when a quantity surveyor came along and said that’s not the most economical make of building, I’d say no it might not have been the cheapest way of building it, but it’s the best way of building it to get the best return for the developer. AC: I read that you picked that site, the Tricorn site? OL: Yes, the other thing was that was happening of course was that if you were in that commercial development sphere, and if I just mention in passing, in the earlier part of the 50’s when I first started my practice I was king of the ladies hair dressing salons. I was designing ladies hair salons, and I switched then to commercial development because that suddenly was the enormous opportunity.
AC: So why did you pick that particular site? OL: Well what happened, what was happening was that once I established this relationship with Alec Colman and also other developer later on. They would phone me and say “Owen! I’ve got a site, or building”, somewhere in Leicester or whatever and wherever it might be and they’d say “will you go and have a look at it and tell me what I can do with it?” That was what happened with Portsmouth, Alec Colman phoned me one day and said “Owen I’ve been offered a property down in Charlotte Street Portsmouth, they say it’s got quite a lot of potential, but go and have a look, tell me what you would do with it”. I went down to Portsmouth and I knew Portsmouth, I already knew the planning officer down there quite well, I got a couple of schemes going in Portsmouth. One of them became the Portsmouth School of Architecture. AC: Yes, I used to go in one of your buildings as a child, my Dad works at the university. OL: Really? Ah, ah! AC: Mercantile house? OL: Mercantile house, yeah, that was done for an entirely different client that was not Alec Colman, and that was earlier. And if I tell you, that site, very few people know the history of that site, that client came to me and said they’d been offered this cinema - a lot of cinemas in those days were being closed because of television - they’d been offered this cinema, so I went along to see George Heath who was the planning officer of Portsmouth at the time and I said to him “I’ve got a client and they want to develop that site, that cinema” and he said “you can’t, we want to do a roundabout there”, I said “Ok, we’ll build it on the roundabout”. I think in the end they didn’t make it a full roundabout. Anyway, so I went down to this site in Charlotte street. Charlotte Street was the very cheap market shopping street behind the main Commercial Road. M&S was on the main frontage with all those big stores. AC: So why did you like that particular site? OL: Well, we’ll come to that because what he’d been offered was a building which had some development potential but not really very much, but right along the side was a big surface car park. And so, I looked at that, and the surface car park was right behind the main shopping street, so you could develop the surface car park in depth with the main frontage - so that you could bring M&S through and one of the other stores through. That was my first reaction when I walked round, I thought this is a natural for a pedestrianised shopping centre. I went to see George Heath he said “Oh you again Owen? Not a roundabout this time? That surface car park, it’s going to be a wholesale market, but with a deck of car parking over the top.” So I said, “well why not put the wholesale market up on the first floor, we can have shopping right through on the ground floor, and we can access with an overhead surface road, and we’ll have some car parking on top”. And he said “yeah, well it’s possible, you better go away and do some drawings and show me how it might work”. AC: So was it already propositioned that there would be a market and a car park? OL: It was going to be that the main part of the Tricorn site, which is why I say sadly now, ten years after its been knocked down, it’s now a sad dismal surface car park. But he said, “we’ve earmarked that, we’re going to develop it. So I said we can have the wholesale market on the ground floor, then we’ll have car parking over the top”. So I went back to Alec Colman, I did some rough sketches, which I always did in the commercial development schemes. I would do the initial sketches and concept designs, and I would see the site, I had to see the site. And I came back and said to Alec Colman - and I said “that property you’ve been offered - not really, no no, I wouldn’t bother with that by itself, but there is a bloody good surface car park right alongside and it’s immediately behind Commercial Road which is the main shopping road in Portsmouth which has been rebuilt”. AC: So, what were the key site influences? I should show you the book that I’m sort of basing my dissertation on is - Design Strategies in Architecture - it’s a really lovely book with lots of sketches and it looks at different examples and it goes through stage my stage, through diagrams the design of various buildings. So that’s what I’m trying to do with your building. OL: Well, where we were breaking completely new ground - we were breaking new ground in the sense that we were making a shopping precinct which was going to come back in depth and one of things that George Heath said to me also, “we’re going to do a bypass road round the back”, which immediately added a dimension - that would be the access road. Anyway I went back to Alec Colman and said “I wouldn’t bother with the small property you’ve been offered, but the car park - what the council intend to do with it is make it into a wholesale market and then put a car park on the top. But, what I’ve got” - and I showed him my sketches and he said “Brilliant! Owen, Brilliant! But, you know, can you get approval for that?” So I said “I’ve spoken to George Heath the planning officer and he didn’t say yes and didn’t say no, but he didn’t say no”. So Alec Colman said “ok, we’ll work it out”. So we worked the scheme out very rapidly. I went back to see George Heath and by this time the scheme was pretty well as it was built - there was not much detail in it but in the - concept of the layers it looks a very complex building but in fact it was a very simple concept really. Its layers - its the bottom layer which is shopping which is 17 feet - I still talk in feet and inches. AC: Yes it’s slightly confusing to me. I’ve been looking at the drawings. OL: 17 feet head room and an overhead service road and nobody had done an overhead service road in that way before. The wholesale market, on the first floor over the shopping, and then car parking stacked up and the department store was - which went through three floors and then the supermarket, the main supermarket, was right up on the bypass road. AC: Right, i’ve got a little sketch can you have a look? So - the car ramps were here?
[Points to sketch]. OL: That’s it, yeah, well - that’s Charlotte street, that’s the service road - where is Commercial Road? AC: Commercial Road is here. OL: Oh yes. Yeah, that’s Charlotte Street, Commercial Road is here. What we were able to do was come through from. [Talk about orienting on the map]. OL: The trouble, one of the problems we had was that they were supposed to do the bypass road at the same time as our development, but they didn’t. So what happened was that Alec Colman in letting his shops, he allowed the supermarket to be moved down onto the Charlotte street frontage, and that of course destroyed in a way the concept of having the supermarket right at the back. Because people flow, shopper flow, is fundamental in shopping design, how people shop, you know the way they walk and access shops, and of course the whole idea here was that they would come on the relief road, they would get off the buses and they would go in through the supermarket. AC: Right. Where was the bus station supposed to be? OL: Well it wasn’t a bus station, just sort of a bus bay, buses would stop there. And then of course the car parking was here, and this was a little bit ahead of Gateshead, Gateshead was about 18 months, 2 years later. But, that was the concept, then we worked it up. AC: So was the idea of having people move through, or walk through the Tricorn? OL: Oh yes, the whole idea was that you would take major units through from Commercial Road so that they could enter the precinct either through M&S from Commercial Road and come through, or the other way round. AC: Yes, I remember there used to be doors at the back. OL: Yes, that’s right. One of the things we were going to do, of course like all the things - the market, the Charlotte street market, the street market, we were gonna move, we had this central square, and I referred to it is as the casbah, and if you’ve ever been to any of the Arab casbahs... AC: I’ve been to the turkish one, the one in Istanbul, the Grand Bazaar. OL: Well, similar, everything is narrow and then suddenly it widens out into an open space and that of course was the concept - that you would have these rather narrow passages for the smaller shops and then the big units were positioned to draw people in. AC: So the big units were supposed to be in the centre? OL: Yeah the big supermarket was intending to be acting on the relief road, on the market road, the bypass road, the new one - it was supposed to be there - and then in fact when they built it, they built it on the Charlotte street frontage. And the other thing was the whole idea of having it as a continuous precinct through from Commercial Road was that the charlotte street market we would move into our central square. AC: So the market was supposed to be in the central square? OL: Yeah - of course if you’ve ever tried to move a market that has a charter going back hundreds of years they didn’t want to move - so in the end of course the market stayed, and the market then, in a way, was a barrier, almost a barrier between... AC: So the market stayed on this road? [Points to map.] OL: Yes, the marketed stayed on Charlotte street. Anyway, that was the concept. AC: Oh I see, so it prevented people walking through your complex. OL: Well it provided an obstacle, it didn’t prevent people them, but it provided an obstacle, but we wanted an natural flow through and they would flow through to the square, they would come in from the surface road into the square and the market, I mean in Gateshead I incorporate the market into the development, but there we couldn’t move it - but that’s a different story. AC: So the market was supposed to be on the first floor was it? OL: The wholesale market - yes, but, this is the retail market, [I’m talking about] the street market. The wholesale market was on the first floor, no problems with that at all, and because we had this overhead surface road we had to get big lorries up to that first floor, and also for the cars. So thats the reason why we’ve got the two very big enormous dramatic circular ramps at each end. AC: So, sorry, can you just clarify, what was the wholesale market because I’m not 100% sure...
OL: Sorry, the wholesale market going to be on the ground floor - we decided to lift it to the first floor so we could develop shopping right through on the ground floor. The street market, which is still there, the Charlotte Street, street market which is the boisterous street market we wanted to move that into the central square, and the famous perspective I’ve got, Gordon Cullen’s perspective of the square - that’s where the market should have gone - and that would then be the absolute hub, focal point, the busy busy busy. AC: So you mean - the retail market was sort of like the chain stores? OL: No no no no, the retail market was the market traders - like Petticoat Lane - that sort of market, and its still there - and in a way its a psychological barrier - that was the first problem, we couldn’t get them to move. Anyway we did a balsa wood model which was just simple - because it is a very simple concept of layers, and I went back to Alec Colman with the balsa wood model. AC: Is that the one that’s photographed in the architects magazines, I think its the Architectural Review. OL: Yes, it probably was, because I don’t think - we didn’t make another model, its the perspective - I’ve got the original perspective down in my house in Larne. Today - I mean architects do those models automatically, but in those days the idea that you did a model that was really quite new. Well of course with a lay client like Alec Colman, who was really a dealer, you had to - show him in three dimensions to make him understand what you were talking about, and then of course I took it down to George Heath and he said “yeah, ok, I think that’s a go”. He said “obviously what’s gonna be the terms” and I had already discussed this and said look George Heath will want to know and I said “you acquire the long lease of the site that the council own, with was the surface car park, you buy up all the rest” - which he did. He was busy buying the other properties, and I said to George Heath “what we’ll do is Alec Colman company will take a 99 year building lease from you, they will build it, they will lease back to you the wholesale market, so you operate the wholesale market and anything else”. And the council wanted - one of the things they pushed in which wasn’t in the original scheme was six flats, which were always a cause of trouble, because they never looked after them properly, like most councils. AC: I’m slightly confused about the massing of everything, why are the flats placed where they are? These are the flats here right? Why are they placed here? OL: Well, that’s in the end, as you work the basic concepts, and then we had to fit those in, that’s where they sort of fitted in. They were sort of along side the department store. The other problem that was caused was that in 1962, when that scheme was just about being approved by Portsmouth Council, the retail market was booming and shop rents were - with inflation, were galloping up like anything and Alec Coleman took a decision, the wrong one, that he would wait until it was more or less finished before he would sign up anyone, and of course by the time it was more or less finished, 1966, the government had changed, the economy was tipping, the retail market was suddenly nothing like as buoyant and of course he then found he couldn’t let the department store. Which was a pity because he could have let the whole thing up in 1962 off plan, but he wouldn’t have had those sort of returns. Anyway, went back to George Heath and he said “yes ok”. AC: So in order to maximise profit he thought waiting was the right decision. OL: Rents were rising, rising year by year, same as in offices. What was happing was that retail and office rents were rising faster than the inflation in building costs, that got us out of trouble quite a few times where our original building cost figures for the original building were way way adrift, the actual figures something like 20% higher - but the inflation in rents was about 40% so we did well. So all these things are factors. Anyway, George Heath said “yes”, I had a meeting with the Portsmouth Council, the property committee, persuaded them that it is was on and on we went. Alec Colman tied up his finance, he didn’t have any problems. Developers work always on the basis that they use other peoples money - not their own. And he raised the finance - of course it took quite a bit of time to get all the legalities sorted out and all the properties owned, and of course, but by the time we built it, it was more or less finished in 1966/7 they hadn’t in fact done the road at the rear. Alec Colman had problems with his debting, which means he then moved the supermarket on to the Charlotte Street frontage which was the last thing I wanted. So that made it have a difficult start, but having said that the wholesale market, it went well. AC: So I see, because the things changed around it meant that the whole concept of the development didn’t work because people didn’t walk through... OL: Well, it did work, it did work in fact, but it didn’t work as well as it might have done. There were a number of reasons in the end why in fact it is was knocked down. Anyway, they agreed and so we built it, and it got a Civic Trust Award, but it’s why I say, if you’ve done your research on me you may have seen my quote saying “in the sixties my buildings were applauded, in the seventies they were awarded, in the eighties they were questioned and in the nineties they were really ridiculed”. They should have kept it... AC: I think they should have done as well... OL: Well it could have been - what killed it - well the other thing that killed it was the council allowed Taylor Woodrow to build the big covered shopping centre along side, that killed the shopping potential in... What was it, the Glades? AC: Cascades? OL: Yep AC: So I also wanted to clarify, were Taylor Woodrow the same construction firm who build the Tricorn? OL: Yeah they built it, and in the end they owned it, and then they built the Cascades. Now the thing is and the things you must also understand
about Portsmouth, Portsmouth is an Island, you drive into Portsmouth over that sort of causeway and in the dates where of course the Tricorn was there you could see the grey parking. AC: Yes, the sculptural skyline! OL: Someone said “you must had designed it with the idea of the Navy” I said “no, not really, but certainly it has that...” But the things is that in 1950s and 60s, Portsmouth was the regional centre for the whole of that southern half of Hampshire and as such the potential - shopping potential, was clearly... AC: That was in the...? OL: The early 1960s – was the shopping potential. When you get through to when they knocked it down, a lot of those town in the southern part of Hampshire have got their own bustling modern shopping centres. Southampton has built - its now the main regional centre, and the M27 - the main coastal road motorway, with that opening up - and now the problem that Portsmouth has got is it’s catchment area for shoppers doesn’t really go anywhere beyond the island, and that’s the reason why they haven’t been able to build anything. The idea was that they would build a lot more shopping, but no way. Anyway so, now the other question is of course why was it done in concrete. Let me say this, again if you’ve researched me, you’ve probably read - we weren’t designing brutalist buildings. In fact I don’t know if the word even existed then, it’s been tagged on afterwards because it’s in concrete. The way I operated - I had a small design group because with commercial development you had to move quickly, very quickly. So I had a small design group that would work very closely with me, to get the scheme up to a point where we would get it approved and then it would go to the main office and then the main office would be responsible for getting it build. One of the earliest decision you have to make with a building is how do you make it stand up and what is the structure? Now, we’re in totally new ground, we’ve got a 17 feet high ground floor, we’ve got an overhead surface road with rolling loads and big lorries, over the top, we’ve got a completely... Now there could only be two materials, structural materials, either concrete or steel. No way steel because a) apart from the fact that you still couldn’t get steel, I mean steel was still in short supply, but quite apart from that steel wasn’t a runner because if we had of done, the beams would have been about 10 feet deep. But in concrete, and of course concrete is of course a very flexible, sculptural material, although the formwork is - I’ll come onto formwork in a minute. But nevertheless the only way we could build at that time, really in any major scheme, all my office buildings were concrete frame because you couldn’t get a steel frame, and so the material had to be in concrete, and in anyway the only way were could get that scheme built, to make it work, was in concrete. So then we had the problem of course that if you’ve got an overhead service road, you’ve got the actual depth of the main concrete floor over the top of the shopping, it’s something - about 18 inches or so, 2 feet, thick, and that’s and enormous lump of concrete, so we then conceived on the coffers. Working with a structural engineer, he said “you don’t need all that concrete, you only need concrete in the reinforcement and that’s how we developed the coffered. And I was looking for the best way of doing the form work, the asbestos, and of course in those days wasn’t a material you didn’t use. I was thinking of making the formwork in - to get the finish that we wanted, and also the shape in asbestos, which we could have. AC: So is that on the curved trays...? OL: That’s the coffered ceiling, you’ve got that on the top of the car trays. Its all structural, the column goes up, only the amount of concrete and steel we need for the columns, and when you get to the top, where wall the stresses are operating, thats where it comes out with a mushroom top to take the load, and then the actual floor, concrete floor, would have been 18 inches or even 2 feet thick to take these rolling loads, but what we did was take out all of the concrete where is wasn’t needed and you only needed, at the seat, and so that’s where the coffered, which was a very very positive feature of the shopping, but that’s why it’s in concrete. I took the view that, the point of view then, why didn’t we cover it with something? Well, for a start if you start trying to cover concrete with tiles, not only is it very expensive but also there is the danger that the tiles fall off. You only need the slightest movement and the tiles start falling off, but quite apart from that, and this is where we learnt a lesson, we believed that we would be able to get a very good concrete finish, a surface board finish, using some of the timber, some of it is smooth, we would get that. The difficulty that the contractors had of course was getting the finish we wanted, at the price that they could manage. In the earlier schemes we got the concrete finish that we wanted, but subsequently I didn’t use exposed concrete because I couldn’t get it for a price that made sense. If you don’t get it right, it’s very difficult to correct it. I always said, in a shopping centre, it’s a fairground. They’re all shouting their wares. Each shop front is that trader shouting its wares. I said we’re not going to have any prissy requirements about the heights of letters and the level of faces. I said we’re going to give them the frame, which is their shop front. What they want to do with it and what they think they need to do with it to sell their wares, they can do it. But we will tie it together with a very very strong design frame which was in concrete, and that was the concept. But one of the problems we had, which I think was a mistake we made, though we learnt it along the way, we thought you could get away with a lot of, because the principle of building in this country is you throw water off the building as quickly as you can. I don’t know how they make the shard watertight with all that water running down. Anyway that’s the first principle, because you do – in traditional building you have drips and coping goes over with the drip. We took the view that we could get away without all the lead, zinc flashing etc. which would disturb the design. But in the end, the problem was - you can’t, because in wet weather the concrete gets stained because the water isn’t being drained off. But that’s the lesson we learnt. AC: But that’s also because nobody had done much concrete right? OL: We were breaking new ground, nobody had used concrete in this sort of way. AC: As you said it was a radical building. OL: The concept of the Rican grew out of the needs of retail shopping with car parking - were in those days the way they were developing. The structural design of it is determined by making the thing stand up and being cohesive. Of course the nightclub on top of that thing was very successful. I mean I’ve got an Arsenal football programme.
AC: Where is the nightclub? OL: The nightclub was very successful. It was on top of the, as you’re looking in the squares, its on the right on the top end. We’re talking about 50-60 yrs ago. (talking about the square) On top of the taller building on the square. [Orientating on the map]. OL: I’m pretty sure its there or there. I’ve got a programme when Arsenal were playing Portsmouth, on the back page of the programme, the Tricorn nightclub was advertised. I’ve got copies of these things, if I can dig them out, I’ll let you have them. It was announcing 2 of the top pop star names that were playing at the nightclub. In the end the problem was it wasn’t maintained properly. One of the problems I don’t think anybody could have anticipated, we did an overhead service road those ramps and loadings were made to take the maximum size of vehicles that were permitted at that time. But in the 1980s the EU changed the rules to allow us to have much larger heavier lorries. In the end the overhead market, the wholesale market, a problem was getting the much larger lorries up. They also serviced the shops as well. You had this problem with servicing. Traditionally you would service from behind the shops. The next most economic way is from the top. The most expensive way is underneath. The same with car parking, the most expensive is below ground, the cheapest is surface car parking at the back. I did a very nice shopping centre in Coalville in Leicestershire, very simple, with a surface car park at the back which was all that could be justified. So the economics of shopping centre development that became a factor. Economics all the time are tied up, because in the end because in the scheme you’ve done, if the bottom line doesn’t work, it doesn’t get built. I don’t know if you’ve ever come across a quotation from a book, a book down there its Architecture in Britain Today. – can you get the book? AC: Yes I’ve seen this book. OL: That’s eros house, Celia has also written about this, Have you seen the quote? I didn’t know the guy so I didn’t have any influence. “Owen Luder has two outstanding talents. Firstly a strong plastic sense, that can transform a drab area, as in the schemes described here, which occasionally lapses into wild mannerisms” - which is true [laughs]. “...a delight in structure for structures sake. The other which endears him to developers, is his brilliant and intuitive grasp of how commercial development works.” That was the key, I could walk down a high street, I could tell you within 10% what the shopping rent would be. Which meant when Alec Coleman or any developer called me “can you look at this site?” I would do the development calculation, it was very simple. What would it cost, what would the return be in rental, and what would capitalise that. You could do it on the back of an envelope. You had to have an understanding of building costs and also rental returns would be. I would go back to the client and say what my view was. AC: I also read that Alec Colman trusted you because would give an honest opinion. OL: The first scheme after I had been introduced to him, the first meeting I had, when Alec had said next thing comes along he said “Owen, I’ll get you to have a look at it.” Then the phone rang within 2 or 3 days and he said “I’ve got a site in Leicester, on the ring road, 100,000 sq. ft in offices. Will you go and have a look at it?” So I went and had a look at it as I knew Leicester. I said Alec I can get you 100,000 sq. ft of offices on that site. Council will bite your hand off. It’s right on the ring road in a proponent position. But whose gonna take 100,000 sq. ft in Leicester. There’s only one new office building being put up, it’s 30,000 sq. ft office building which is being let to the government. No one’s going to let. He said “you’re the first architect that’s told me not to build.” After that he trusted me implicitly. He knew that, while I might have got it wrong, what I was saying I genuinely thought. And we didn’t get many wrong. That’s why I did millions of pounds of work for him in the end. That’s the background. - Now is there anything else you need from me? AC: The background is very helpful. Now, can I ask you more about what I’m trying to do? I know you did the building a long time ago, but I need to understand the design. I’ve done quite a lot of research on the background. I’ve done the first half of my dissertation, looking at the Tricorn in Portsmouth. I’ve taken diagrams of its location in Portsmouth. OL: What I’ve said about Portsmouth being an island and it was in the back end of the 50s and 60s, it was a shopping centre for the whole of the southern Hampshire region, of course thats now changed. I did developments in Fareham. AC: Where the ones in Fareham later? OL: Yes. It wasn’t a very big scheme. AC: The inclusion of more southern shopping centres meant the Tricorn had less shoppers. OL: All of those towns have moved because the big retail companies, if they see an opportunity they had to be there, and the supermarket, of course supermarkets. If you’re doing a shopping scheme, the first thing was is it big enough to warrant a large supermarkets and other multiples because the multiples were key. The way you did the calculations, because if you’ve got a building – an office building of 100,000 sq. ft the nets and grosses were important. How much was net let-able, if you managed to get 80% let-able, you could calculate the rent , e.g. £15 a sq. ft, whatever it might be and that would give you a total rent. You then capitalise that. I made sure I had knowledge of what investment returns were. An office development in the centre of London had a return of 6%. An office development in the backstreets of Paisley if it was let to a good tenant might be 4%. You then capitalise it by the return, that gives you a total value when its finished. Then you take away from that - the site costs, the building costs etc, and then if you’re left with a gap, that’s the developers profits, then it’s a viable scheme. AC: Perhaps other people didn’t understand that very well. OL: It’s the same principle today. The other thing is with developers with existing buildings - the basic principle that they use, which is usually
right. If the site is worth more than the building you knock the building down, if the building is worth more than the site you keep the building, add to that how much it might cost to renovate the building. That’s the basic principle, which inevitably is the starting point. That’s part of the success in the development. That’s why he says that in the book by Alan Balfour. Anyway you carry on with your questions! AC: I’m trying to show the background of why the Tricorn Centre developed, so you didn’t talk about bombing... OL: The key point in the revolution of retail is the development of regional shopping centres with multiple traders. And the multiple traders decided which regional centres they would go into. If they weren’t prepared to go into that regional centre, then either it didn’t get redeveloped or it stayed and withered on the vine. Or if they did decide to redevelop - so Newcastle and Gateshead is a good example. M&S - Newcastle is the regional centre and it still is. Gateshead was trying hard to fight with Newcastle for shopping and it didn’t have a chance because it wasn’t a regional centre and you couldn’t have a regional centre both sides. So the regional thing is important. AC: I’ve probably got to do a little diagram to show that. I was just looking at the site and how it used to be, the history of the site beforehand, and I was trying to show that because it got bombed - that’s how there was this space for the Tricorn. OL: Commercial road - Portsmouth was heavily bombed because it was a naval dockyard. Commercial road which was the main shopping drag in Portsmouth, and in those days all of those places have their main shopping drag? And that was very heavily damaged, but one of the things the government in the 1940 and early 50s did, in 1940’s it was a labour government, you had to get a licence to build, and licences were very sparingly granted for private development, but where they did in fact allow development and redevelopment was in some of the bombed city centres - Coventry, Plymouth and Portsmouth - whereas in Coventry they redeveloped with a precinct which was breaking new ground, whereas in Portsmouth they just rebuilt Commercial Road more or less as it was. AC: So you were able to get a licence in Portsmouth? OL: No by the time we got there, there were no licences - that was immediately post war. I built a little house for myself when I was very young and just been married and I got a building licence and that’s how I able to build my own house, so building materials were controlled. Steel was in short supply because it had to be imported. Then it was redeveloped - and the redevelopment took into account - the redevelopment was in the late 40s early 50s - the retail revolution was only just beginning to happen then - in 1951 the conservative government came in and changed all the policies - but of course it took a while for that to come in - so it wasn’t until you got to the end of the 1950s that you never had it so good, the economy had come around. I always wondered what would have happened if the conservatives had won the election immediately after the war. They would have faced all the problems post war instead of labour, and of course they made it worse as the policies they wanted to develop were satisfactory if there was a booming economy, but in an economy that was flat on its back - it would have been the other way around, it would have been very interesting - of course labour inherited enormous problems - I grew up with it. I was in the army during it and if it had been the other way around, as when the conservatives came in in 1951, suddenly things were changing, which is why I say if you ever think of starting a practice of your own, never start when the economy is up there, cause it’s gonna dip down and it’ll take you down. You start it when its down there, because as it recovers then it takes you up. AC: Thanks for that tip for the future! Same as buying a house I guess, it’s common sense really. OL: That applies to any business really. If you’re starting any business, but with architecture, construction is cyclic. AC: Yes, anyway, I was trying to show the site then I was trying to think about the things that drew people in, I was trying to show the roads, the Tricorn site, the bypass. OL: The bypass was built about 15years after it should have - those were the two things that made big problems for the Tricorn. AC: So the bypass wasn’t actually there OL: Yeah it should have been as part of the scheme, but it didn’t happen. And then the council allowed it to deteriorate. But when I was doing that initial study, at the same time I had a look at Southsea, which is the posher side, and also North End. When I went back to Alec Coleman and said what we could do, I said Portsmouth centre will always be the major centre of that part. AC: This was at the same time as looking for the Tricorn site? OL: Yes, the same time. The question was if we are going to do a big development shopping centre, should we do it there or in another part of Portsmouth. Everything indicated that was the established top shopping centre, that clearly was the area that the multiples would go into. North End was not a competitor and Southsea was posher shopping but limited. AC: Its the same today. OL: One of the stores in Portsmouth they were trying to get it to open in Southsea but it wouldn’t open in Southsea at the same time, same as M&S. I did a shopping scheme in Catford, Catford is halfway between Lewisham and Bromley - Lewisham and Bromley are major regional centres, Catford isn’t and never will be. AC: So its more national than just looking at commercial road. You looked at the whole city. OL: Also accessibility and also impact of cars and people - more and more people, where I grew up in south London in Rotherhithe in the 30s,
I can remember the first car that appeared in the street where we lived. It was the cheapest car on the market, but now with the growth of cars, but also thats the reason why people shop at supermarkets. AC: In term of cars, why was commercial road the better location? OL: Because commercial road was the existing centre and I could not see and Alec agreed with me - he got surveyors in to look too, and we all agreed there was no way you could build a big shopping centre development in either North End or Southsea that would compete with Portsmouth centre, and Portsmouth centre is the one that all the multiples would want to go into, because the last thing you want to do is build a shopping centre in the wrong place. AC: What other site factors did you had to consider on the Tricorn site, its very close to the dockyard for instance, is that something you had to consider? OL: Not really, it’s a natural flow, shopping is all about accessibility - with developers there’s an old joke–if you ask a developer what are the three most important things about a site, he’ll say location, location, location. Absolutely right. But what is the right location changes in time. So big supermarkets, superstores they go out of town with acres of car parking, because the majority of their shoppers have cars and want to shop by car. I used to have a graph of the Catford area for shopping centres, which was really within 20 minutes, now 20 minutes without a car is not very far away, 20 minutes with a car is quite far, and 20 minutes down the motorway is a long way away, the motorway development has effected accessibility. People can’t get at you, they wont come. AC: I know the way you devised the building, its simple because there is retail at the bottom, then wholesale and then servicing, but I can’t - I find it slightly difficult to make sense of the complex, why is it triangular shaped for instance? OL: That’s just the shape of the site, that’s why it got called the Tricorn, I mentioned, I called it several times as the casbah, and the shopping agents that have got to let the shops said “no way, that’s the wrong image!” So they conceived calling it the Tricorn, as it’s that triangular shape of Nelson’s hat sort of thing. That’s the reason so I’m told. AC: Why was the site in that shape? If it wasn’t to do with the bypass road, it was the bombing? OL: Because the crucial thing was the surface car park that the council owned - that was bombed and not redeveloped, that was the crucial thing and you built the site up as you needed. I used that as the nucleus of the site, I then did the scheme and that showed the other properties that Alec Colman had to acquire or the council had to acquire to make it possible. So you build up a site. It wasn’t just the car park site. But that was the key, without that it couldn’t happen. AC: So when you went about designing the buildings, did you think about axis, or what’s your design process or methodology? OL: The major determining factor of the design of the Tricorn is the retail use, as that is where all the money was. So therefore the whole thing is designed on the basis of shopping flow. If you think of shopping high streets you use, there’s a start and an end. You usually find that what happens is, the existing shopping street ends where there’s a roundabout or railway bridge. In other words it fits in. (For example) Sutton - and I did another scheme in Sutton, has the longest high street going all the way down the hill, so its contained, you can’t go too far. The whole concept is the way people would circulate through. A. they would circulate through from Commercial Road through M&S and through the other department store into the precinct. B. they would also come through from the busses and public transport. Also they would park over the top in the car park. So they would be coming at it from 3 directions. Then it was a case of making the internal flow so that you would get these rather narrow shopping ways opening up into wider spaces and the main square. AC: How did you determine where the narrow entrances were? Did you just place them near to the back entrance of M&S? OL: I’m pretty sure what I must have done, is I must have drawn in the square, the open square first. That was the key, the nucleus. And everything would lead into that. And you would have the department store on one side of the square, and a couple of very successful pubs as well. The Bell was a very successful pub. AC: Yeah, I read a lot about the background. OL: We did two. One we were allowed to do the interiors, I think that was the Bell. The other one the Brewery, they didn’t let us anywhere near them. Us mad modernists! Bloody architects! AC: So the square was the key point. OL: So from the square, you then get the avenues in from - through from commercial road through M&S, the main store, and from the bypass road at the back where they would be dropped off by busses. Because Commercial Road was going to be pedestrianised that was the whole point. That was taking the traffic out of commercial road, and then they would also come in from the car park from above. And that’s a concept I followed through on pretty well every major shopping centre I did afterwards. AC: So something like the square in the centre, and the idea is they should all flow into that central nucleus. [Owen Luder drawing a diagram] OL: Yeah, you start off from the square, Commercial Road down here, Charlotte Street there, and then into the square, which would be there,
There would be various routes into the square. The main supermarket was on that side of the square, department store there, the other major building there with the nightclub on top, and the square was the access point, the key to it. AC: So you started off with that nucleus? OL: The whole idea was anyway, the starting point was we’ve got to move the charlotte street market, so the market goes into the square, which is that natural thing for it. If you’ve been to Northampton for example, the actual open shopping market is sort of in the middle of what is effectively a big square in the centre of the town. The Bell is in that corner but then these would be small shops. A mixture of small, medium and large shops. The two key ones were the department store and supermarket. He (Alec Colman) never let the department store and supermarket got put down there, which was a barrier. AC: So you placed those key blocks into the site first. Did you create a grid to place those on? OL: Yes it was a sort of a grid, but that’s the starting point, the square and how you get into it and over the top, the 3 ways of getting into it. Charlotte Street market was there, a barrier and we wanted to put that into the square, but we couldn’t do that. AC: I’m trying to unpick the design more... OL: Of course. The decision on car parking, overhead servicing was determined anyway, because we were going to have an overhead service road for the wholesale market. AC: So did you use sort of - it seems like - I don’t know if my interpretation is right, but it seems like those roads were like an axes as a placement for the shape? OL: Its rather the opposite way, the concept was the actual precinct and how that related to the surrounding roads. The surrounding road the ring road was very important as that was bringing in busses. But you see what happened in the end. They didn’t pedestrianise Commercial Road, they didn’t build that road, so people were coming into Commercial Road and then if they wanted to get through into the precinct, they had to cross the Charlotte Street market. That’s where it became a barrier. Those were the problems. AC: Why was the car parking placed on this side? OL: That became a question of how it all worked out. You couldn’t put it over the top of the department store, as the department store covered 3 storeys anyway. That’s a case of ‘architecture is all about the 3 dimensional use of space’, forget about whether its brutalist or concrete, or classical buildings. Forget about that - it’s about the 3d use of space. With that concept we weren’t just designing in 2d, but in 3d - and cubist forms and how we would fit those in and make them all work. They had to work independently, but also together. And of course we had to provide the wholesale market at first floor. In Gateshead, when I did the Gateshead shopping centre with a car park on top, there the back road was 2 storeys higher than the main road, you’ve seen the Get Carter film? You’ve seen the way the car comes off that ramp, that’s off the top road so its almost straight in at that 2nd floor level. Again that’s 2d use. And this was the flat side… AC: You start with the square, you place the key building around and then, the trays - are kind of L shaped around the site is that the determined by the triangular nature of the site? OL: Your designing within the site you’ve got, that’s a site we decided we needed. AC: So when you placed the square here, and you’ve got the site, did you start by thinking about some sort of l shape? OL: The l shape is determined by the site, then you design the complex within those site boundaries. That’s the parameters; you can’t do anything about those. The problems we had was the Charlotte Street market. The thing was determined. The overhead service road, we had to have it. We had one at Gateshead, but it started two floors up, we didn’t need any ramps to get up there. AC: And yeah, so the housing is just something that comes about later then? OL: Housing, if I remember correctly it was only about 6 flats, was a very small part. I got a feeling it was somebody on council said we ought to have some. The Catford scheme I did have all housing over the top. And that was 10 - 15 years later. I think somebody on the council must have said well can’t you introduce some residential. In the end we just put in 6 total flats. Alec Colman insisted that if we put flats in there the council had to be responsible for them, and they were but they were never looked after. Classic council. Council tactics to get rid of a building they don’t want is let it fall to pieces then there can’t be any argument. AC: Is the restaurant just placed higher up, why is it placed higher up, views…? OL: Same as Gateshead, the multi storey car park. The concept there was to put the nightclub on top. The top at the time had 90-degree views of the whole of Tyneside, magnificent views. Now the nightclub in Portsmouth was very successful. But why didn’t they develop. Again it goes back to the economics of development. The shopping part of it was no problem. 2 levels shopping with access. What do we put on the top? Gateshead in 1959/60 offices? no, offices in Newcastle. Flats? No way. If we’d had done that 10 – 15 years later there would be council flats over the top as I did in Catford. What do we put over the top? that’s when I said lets put a multi-storey car park. On top of the car park was going to be the nightclub. Never fit…? Reason why was because Alec Colman had to fund it, principle - use other peoples money not you own. He had to get funds to build it. The funding - you couldn’t fund a multi storey car park. Because it cost money to build, but didn’t produce much return. The only
way we got round it was Alec Colman took a 99 year lease of the site - built the development then leased the car park that included the nightclub, back to the council. Council couldn’t even run a bloody car park properly, as for the nightclub…? There was young girl artist that did a film and consulted me on how would we would have fitted it out. So I did all the sketches for her and the furnishings that we would have used at the back end of the 50s. That sort of 1960s classical furniture which now has come back. It would have been magnificent. When the argument was going on about it being demolished. The BBC and Kevin McCloud did a TV show on it, called demolish. They had the usual public poll - please tell us the worse buildings, and inevitably, Portsmouth had been demolished by then. But Gateshead car park came in, The BBC then did a film – if you go into Owen Luder google you’ll see all those films. When they did the development and I was saying the exact same as I was saying in Portsmouth. See the building as it could be not as it is – its deteriorated. Just think of the car park, tart it up, some colour, a glass climber lift on the outside to the car park top, it would be fantastic. But it never happened. Because funding a car park was difficult. AC: If the grid is determined by the square in the centre.. OL: Well the design is determined by the pedestrian shopping flow, that’s crucial - that’s the starting point - you’ve got to make that work, that comes in from the ring road, up through from commercial road and from the top. That determines exactly how you determine the shopping layout, and the shopping layout then also tends to determine what goes on above. AC: Can you remember how you determined the shopping layout? OL: I’m sure it would have started with the square and how you would attract shoppers in, because if there’s no shoppers coming into the shopping centre, nobody buys anything, there’s nobody there, so the whole key is the shopping , the footfall. How you would get the people in and how you would attract them in. You attract them from main Portsmouth, from commercial round and M&S, they would know and there would be ways of persuading them, they would come through into the precinct and come off the bus. That determines then the internal layout of the shopping and what happens above, you may have to adjust it above. In the end it’s got to work above because it’s a mega structure of 3 or 4 uses. Retail shopping on grounds floor, wholesale market, a service road that’s got to service all the shops, a small block of flats, the department store that’s coming up through 3 storeys, the nightclub on top, the car parking. Those you integrate. You will have never have seen it, but I did a big scheme for Hayes Wharf, what is now London city. The London mayor’s headquarters. Where HMS Belfast is. It’s an integrated scheme that didn’t happen because the property market collapsed in the mid 70s. It’s then a case of integrating a 3d use of space. The starting point is getting that shopping flow through, so shoppers can easily flow through from Commercial Road, from the ring road and from above to get down into the shopping. That’s why I wanted the supermarket on the ring road to attract people through. Because it wouldn’t be difficult to attract people from the car park on top or from the ring road. But the thing was to make sure we got them coming through from Commercial Road. AC: So the smaller shops are placed around? OL: Retail shopping development was such that you did an initial scheme. The moment the letting boys started deciding which tenants there would be was when you started adjusting where the larger shops would be. In other words there would be an adjustment in the flow. One of the keys to flow is if you’ve got an M&S, M&S is going to attract a lot of people. So you make sure that you make it easy for them to get through to M&S. But you line the route through to M&S with smaller shops. That’s the concept. It’s all about shopping how the pedestrians flow as shoppers. AC: Did you purposely change - you know the alleyways are quite... twisting - I’ll show you my computer model (of the Tricorn). I tried to make a model with sketchup so it was in 3d. [Opens laptop to find sketchup model.] AC: So you sorta started with the department here and the supermarket? OL: Well the thing is the square, then you you put the department stores supermarket next to the ring road, the department store to the left, and then everything was intended to revolve around the square and you draw the people in and that’s the way it works, then of course you have got to get the overhead service road in and the first floor wholesale market and the whole thing is a fairly complex integration, in fact a 3d integration of various uses... AC: Yeah I see but because these things are tall you then have got to put them in the gaps. And you know the little alleyways did you purposefully design them to sort of misalign. OL: The whole idea was to have the casbah the whole idea was to have the very close, quite narrow alleyways then opening up into the square opening up into big spaces, and that this the essence of the casbah, if you go through a casbah that is what it is like. AC: And were there any specific casbahs that you looked at? OL: No, it was that having been round a number of them, particularly in Tangier, Morocco, one or two others I just had the feel of the casbah, but I mean I wasn’t designing a casbah it was just that same principle that you go through, I am a rather great believer in vistas, even in this flat you will see a series of vistas and as you go through it changes. I am a great believer in Vistas, there is a vista right through from the water fountain, right through to the bedroom. AC: OK are the the towers placed for vistas or for access? OL: No, I’m a great believer - in fact it is a fundamental belief, ‘form follows function’. Now I mean the aeroplane I love is the spitfire, beautiful aeroplane - aesthetically beautiful, why is it aesthetically beautiful? Because it fulfils the function - in other words the aesthetics centre on
function. And in fact in all my buildings you will find that the ‘form follows functions’, in other words, I mean I just I wonder if the Gherkin (the phallic symbol!). I means who on earth designed an office building that is not only circular but different on every floor, I mean it does not make any sense. It works there because the values are so great they got away with it, but i mean - it doesn’t really make any sense. You don’t start off - the wrong way to start of designing a building is to start off with an idea in your head of what its going to look like before it is even started. What it is going to look like grows out of what - the Tricorn is a classic example - grows out of the basic concept of pedestrian shopping, the various layers that are needed - the two big circular ramps there to give access out of that flows the aesthetics, which you either like or dislike, that determines it. We didn’t think we’ll have a couple of great big circular ramps there because they will make an incredible structural statement. AC: Yes. I can understand why they are there because of the bypass road and... OL: Yes. Well they are there because we had to get heavy lorries up onto the first floor, because the first floor - first floor service road which is alarming because if you have done any structural design you will know that moving loads are very much more heavier than static loads. You can have a static load, where there is nothing moving on it, or you can have, if you have got cars and lorries the vibration and the movement creates far bigger stresses so you have to a much stronger structure. AC: And how does the spiral ramp help? OL: Sorry? The spiral ramp is the way you get the lorries up there - its got to be big ‘cos its got to take lorries, not like in Gateshead which is mainly for cars, apart from the one service which is more or less at that level, so what I have said is that you do the concept, and how you are going to build it which determines the structure. That is the philosophy of mine, I don’t believe in, I can remember a film I’ve seen many many years ago, called ‘Mr Blandings builds his dream house’, well I remember it because its a classic example where a client, he walks in and the foreman carpenter said (its all be built as a timber house, its in California...) and the carpenter said “Oh yes Mr Blandings Sir, do you want your beams up there rabbited or straight jointed?” and of course Mr Blandish didn’t know what he was talking about, and made the mistake of saying “ohhh I think they should be rabbited” and the foreman carpenter looks up and says “ohh he wants them RABITTED” next minute, wood comes tumbling down. Well next thing was, a great quote came out when he went into what was a very fussy pretty interior, the sort of thing you get in top hotels, and he asked “Where do I hang my powder and wig?” Well if you think about it, that sums it up, if this flat was done with classical reproduction furniture, and God knows what, I’d be pretending to be a Georgian gentleman? Where do I hang me cap? Anyway. AC: The staircases then, are they just sort of placed at the entrances, or how did you place them? OL: The ramps? AC: No the pedestrian... OL: Oh the pedestrian! That became a natural part as you designed we decided that is where we would have car parking, then in fact you have to have lifts and staircases but that determines then by the design flow, the pedestrian flow of getting people from the car parking, down into the shopping centre. Design is a series of decisions that you have to get in the right order. Yes it’s very difficult, it is something that grows out of the initial concept, you how you are going to work it through, and then of course how you are going to build it also, we may have thought, “we are going to have a staircase there” but then structurally you cannot put it there... You know designing is very often about resolving conflicting requirements. AC: Right. When you thought about the design, did you think much about daylighting, and if the sun would get into the courtyard? OL: Oh yes, obviously, I mean daylighting – is – and in all my work on flats, its fundamental, and in offices, and of course there are pretty struct daylighting and sun lighting requirements anyway, and you have to be comply with those. what I did with the office blocks, I used to trim the corners, and the reason was to get the maximum floor height up with sight lines around the sight... AC: Oh so they are not blocking much of the views - and that is quite similar to some of the blocks. The housing sort of has a rounded edges. OL: What the six flats were not major, they were an afterthought and they were tucked in, and I don’t think it was a very good idea to stick them up there. Its a wholesale shopping market, service - all the service vehicles for the thing, cars coming up, and I am sure it was a last minute requirement by the council. AC: And then - how about the lighting in the courtyard? I think one thing I saw about the design, there is more building higher up on the south. OL: I don’t think orientation came into it at all (from memory). I mean in some buildings its crucial, but other times it isn’t. - I did high security prisons! We did one over the water in Northern Ireland and we had just finished the one in durham, and they said to me “Mr Luder, we have got an urgent prison we have to get built across the water” and I said “what do you mean across the water” and he said “its in Northern Ireland” in the middle of 1970s, all the troubles out there. They said “all we want you to do is to repeat your Durham prison. We don’t really have any problem if you just use those drawings, but its a different orientation so you may have to change it a bit.” Of course in the end the orientation was completely different, so was the levels, so in the end we had to redesign the thing. Orientation is important if you are building a house, but in the context of a shopping centre, and most these days are built completely covered, so blocking any sun shine. Great argument, but I wasn’t convinced you needed covered shopping centres, only on the basis that the one I did in Coalville has got - very simple - but it has got canopies, which means you are protected. AC: So the parking - the towers, the four of them, did they just came about from the function, because they are very distinctive features of the design.
OL: But again the design process, that is where we are going to put the layers of car parking, so we have to get access to them, to get cars into the car parking, and then we have to get the actual shoppers that are in the car park down into the thing, and that would determine what we would need maybe four towers and then it would be a question of where they land on the ground floor. AC: How did you work that out? OL: Well you would have probably quite a lot of fairly limited alternatives, but in the end you would make it work, because they would be going down into a precinct area, so you make sure they wouldn’t be going down in the middle of a shop. AC: Yep, I can kinda see, and the elevation of this side – the bypass road side - is far more designed and complicated than the other side, was that intentional, was that side designed as the main – facade? OL: No I don’t think so, inevitably with a scheme of that sort I had a team of - must have been about... on the actual detail working drawings. I’ve got a set of the working drawings, have you seen the detailed working drawings? AC: I’ve seen some of them, in the library in Portsmouth OL: I’ve got them, I’ll see if I have a spare copy. AC: Could I photograph the drawings? Could we look at the drawings and talk about them? I think I known where they are... I have not looked at them for ages, you have to keep in mind we are talking about something that was happening 1961, 62, which is 40, 50 nearly 60 years ago. My memory is very good, but also bear in mind I had a hell of a lot of things happening at the same time. So, so - but having said that it is pretty clear in my mind. AC: What you said has really helped me though! OL: Don’t get old! [Owen recites his own poetry about ageing and goes to look for the drawings.] AC: I think what you have said so far has given me a very good understanding of how the basic ideas were designed but in order to diagram it I am still a bit confused about it. OL: The design grows... AC: I know it does, but it appears complex. OL: Well let me go and see, there you are, there is the basic plan. AC: It looks like there is some sort of structural grid you followed, all the columns line up OL: You got to support the road over - you’ve got the floor - floor over most of them, but you are determined for example with these small shops, on you’ve got a column which gives you a structure, which gives you a space for these small shops without any columns in them. AC: I see - is it the small shops that determine the structural grid or is it the structural grid and then you place the small shop within them? OL: The small shops determine the structural grid where there are small shops, but where there is a big, for example the department store, you have a different grid. [Looking at the drawings] OL: So this is the drawing as built, there is the supermarket, the supermarket should have been up there. There is the central square. AC: OK I see I see, yep yep, oh then and what is this? OL: I got it, and that is the first floor, now you see the first floor, you can see how the larger units come up and the square comes through obviously, and then the department store. The rest of it is more or less storage units, for the shops below. AC: Right, and why were they placed here? Just because there is space? Why are there gaps? OL: Well the ramp up, you have got your circulation on the first floor, to service these shops... AC: So it has to go over the shops basically? OL: Well again - otherwise you have got to get rid of the service steps from the ground floor, otherwise you don’t have pedestrianised shopping... Can you open those? [Referring to drawings.]
AC: Yes! And how have these been designed. [Referring to windows]. OL: Well slip windows are an architectural expression, you can have a normal window, and a slip window is a sudden glimpse of what is going on outside, when what is going on outside is not really very important! AC: Right I see. Did you look at any of the surroundings in Portsmouth to use as vistas, like when you talked about the house or not really? Did you think about the vistas of Portsmouth when you designed it? OL: No I mean it had a sort of nautical flair about it because we used concrete, but we didn’t do that deliberately. Can you open that? If I have a spare copy, you can borrow a copy. I have a feeling I did get it, its out of print. AC: Are these all hand drawn or computer? OL: Yes they are all hand drawn, I mean I haven’t drawn them, I had staff, by the time that had been designed my office had grown to about 40 people, from virtual no where. I mean when I was doing the Lady’s hairdressers, I was doing them all myself. AC: But yeah, I think I sort of understand how you have designed it, its all around the central square. And how the main shops have been placed. OL: If you are designing a shopping precinct. The shopping flow, the footfall, and the way the shoppers are attracted through it, and how they will move through it and how you will draw them to the thing, - you use the key tenants (the M&S, the department store, the supermarkets). You go back to the earliest designs of these which were American. There was always a key tenant. AC: Did you have an intended key tenant, or was that up to Alec Colman to decide? OL: Oh no you would always have key tenants in mind. AC: Right, do you know who the key tenant was for... OL: No but you would do a big unit which you would say, “well I think M&S might well take that” or you would do a department store, and in the end when you have a department store tenant the tenant would probably have requirements that would mean you have to change the design of it. AC: Are these just parking trays here? I mean sorry, the towers to get the stairs in... OL: Can’t remember now. These were all the supporting buildings. AC: Hmm - rolls and rolls of drawings. Theres hundreds in the library! OL: Yes loads actually! If you just go through it, if you find there are two copies, you can borrow one, it would be great for you... AC: It would be! OL: They represent the concept, in the initial design, the concept hasn’t changed. Basic design hasn’t changed at all, but it isn’t exactly as we intended, for example the supermarket was where it was built, not as we initially wanted it. AC: I see what you mean. Well I think its probably enough to illustrate the initial designing, and how you went about it. Yes, thank you. I’ll have a look through and check... OL: Do you want anything to eat, would you like a coffee? AC:Yes please! [Coffee break and sorting through drawings] OL: If two sets you can borrow one. I think I did manage to get an extra copy made. AC: I’m just trying to sort them out, and put them, and double check that they are the right thing, but thank you! OL: I must check how Chelsea are getting on - I don’t support Chelsea you see, I don’t want them to win. AC: Is that football? OL: Yeah I am an Arsenal supporter I have been all my life. [Football on TV] AC:There are a lot of drawings.
OL: Yes! Well as I say they have not been opened. Since there are two sets here, you can take one. AC:I’ll have to bring them back in summer. OL: There is no rush I have another set. I’’l be glad to get them back, in case I need them, but there is no rush, and I have a lot of other stuff I’ll dig out. AC: That is really kind of you, and I will bring a copy of my work when I’ve done it. OL: Quite a number of students have done things over the time, but I have always said there is only one condition - I want to see what you have done. AC: Yes, well I’d be really honoured if you read my work! OL: There’s a design cross section which war in the review design awards which just shows that the very simple principle... looks a very complex building but the actual concept of it is... AC: It’s simple, I think I’ve extracted that from what you’ve said. OL: There’s a design cross section which was in the Architectural Review design awards which just shows that its a very simple principle - it looks a very complex building but the actual concept of it is simple. AC: It’s simple, yes, I think I’ve extracted that from what you’ve said. Yes, I think I’ve asked you most of the main questions that I wanted to ask. I don’t remember if I asked you about other precedents for the design? OL: No I mean my - I’m going to go into what influenced me. I mean obviously I’m very interested in Corb, inevitably. F. R. S. Yorke, the Modern House was a great. I mean I had all the obvious influences of being a student but of course I didn’t go to school in the normal way - architectural school - I didn’t - I grew up in London during the Blitz, and then I went to Peckham’s School for Girls, where the headmistress there got me to sit for the technical scholarship. So I went to the School of Building. So I did all mine part time, I worked during the day and did evening classes. AC: Hmm I see, so you had no formal architectural training. Did you go to the AA or was that Rodney Gordon? OL: No no no no. AC: I’m probably confusing that with Rodney. OL: No that was Rodney. AC: You’re right. OL: You mention Rodney. Rodney Gordon worked for me for 7 years. 1960-67, by which time he’d become a partner and quite frankly my other partners got so fed up with him - he was a playboy! The way to tell it really. But he came and did the scheme for me because I was under a lot of pressure and he did a scheme. Yeah I mean I designed it and then he worked it up. and then he became - I employed him, he became an employee. He and another guy, Dennis Drawbridge who was responsible for getting things built and he - because of Rodney’s talent - and he had a talent. And with a commercial development I had to have a design team that worked very quickly. I would go and see a site and come back with my sketches of what would do and we would have to work them up. Within a matter of days, very often. And so that was a way of working very quickly. Cause in those days I built up a team, a young team; people came to me, students came to me or young architects came to me saying “can we work for you Mr Luder?” They knew what I was doing and they were enthusiastic, I never ever advertised for staff. And so I built up a team and I got this team who were all very young. They were the barmy army really! And then I set up a design team with Rodney Gordon in it and then I put him in charge of that detail design team so that when I came down with a sketch for example, of Gateshead, when I came back I did the sketch on the train because I was in such a rush, then the design team would work it up. Obviously I was not involved in the design team every day, all the time, because you know – in the earlier days when I always did all the drawings myself. Of course he had a talent undoubtedly, and I employed people that thought as I did. We had the same basic concept of how, he contributed undoubtedly. But when he stood up and said it was nothing to do with Owen at all, he just went out and got the jobs. No way at all! You know he left me in 67 I mean designing buildings that were making, years after he left - he never produced anything else. It’s sad he was a playboy, and what I discovered was when I made him a partner, and he didn’t think he had to do anything. And I discovered he was spending most of his time down at the nightclub! Down in Portsmouth! Haha. And in the end my other partner by this time - I think there were about 4 or 5 partners then, practice was growing very rapidly, and then they just got rid of him. Just said to me look you know he’s just - so he went under a cloud. So yes he was talented, he contributed, but so did a lot of other people. But anyone that doesn’t think that I wasn’t in charge, and determined what we did, and how we did it, think again. AC: Well yes, you started the partnership I guess. OL: Well yes. and I built a brand name, I didn’t expect, I didn’t go out of my way to build a brand name, but ‘Owen Luder’ became a brand name. I didn’t set out to do that, but I knew only too well that - I’ve a good approach to PR. I know how to handle media, and I always went out to make sure that everything we did. You could be the pest person in the world but if nobody else knows about it. [Laughs].
OL: I had developed, the sort of the PR side of it. AC: So Rodney was a talent? What in though? Drawing or design? OL: Yes. I mean in the end I put him in charge of the design group. AC: Of the Tricorn? OL: Yes of the Tricorn. Again he claimed - on Gateshead. The design team worked up my scheme for Gateshead but in the end Ron Worthington who was my partner in the harrogate office by then, he was in fact responsible for the detail of it and getting it built. So no he was a plus. AC: Right I see. The other thing is, do you think you might not have designed enough larger department stores in the Tricorn building? Because there’s still quite a lot of small shops. OL: No. No. A scheme like that, you would judge the size, the weight of the scheme as to whether it would be just a large supermarket which you would look for the key tenant. The first key tenant would be a supermarket, because that would draw in lots of shoppers. A bigger scheme with a wider appeal, you would certainly look for M&S, British Home Stores, Littlewoods as it was then, and you then look for a number of the bigger stores. If it was a very big scheme you might have had to had two department stores. But Portsmouth would only take one. AC: Right I see. Is that also, has that changed over time or has...? OL: It applies now. Basic principles still apply. AC: Ok. OL: The weight of a scheme and it’s an economic weight you see, again - going back to the way you do it, the cost of the building and the cost of the site and everything else - but in the end what determines whether you can afford to build it is the return in terms of rent. And with rents, the return depends on the rental you’re getting, but also the quality of the tenant. You get a much better capital return on M&S than you would on just a small shop. So, but having said that there is a limit. So one department store; and it should have been, and he had a tenant for the department store but he didn’t take it up and by the time it opened... People forget that, they think of the 1960s as a boom decade but of course it wasn’t. The first half up to mid 65 was, but then the government changed and the economy went into reserve. We had the iron lipping, and Aaron Wilson saying the pound was the same value in your pocket when it bloody well wasn’t. So the second half of the 60s was a dip. Now one department store and a large supermarket was the key stores - and that would attract the small. It’s a bit like the sharks in the sea, the big fish that attract the little fish that follow them. AC: Ha, right. So maybe because those didn’t come in, then the smaller markets didn’t follow. OL: It was reasonably well let; in the beginning. If you read Clark’s book on the Tricorn. A big supermarket and a lot of small traders - but it didn’t get, he (Alec Colman) lost the bigger traders, the department store particularly. And of course the Charlotte Street still remaining the market didn’t help, and not building the bypass, that didn’t help. but it was reasonably successful, but not as successful as it should have been. AC: You know the geometry of the building, was that intentional. The curved trays that are the iconic... even the Tricorn was demolished when I was very young, but I still remember the curved trays and the ramps. OL: Again this a process of design. Having decided with this mega mixture of uses that there were the car park in their trays. That’s all they are concrete trays, and they had to have an edge to them, to stop cars coming off the edge. And the edge could be an upright wall, could be chamfered as we did at Gateshead. I can remember us there having a discussion on the detail of those and we agreed in the end that it would be great to have them like saucers with curved ends - and the issue then was a question of formwork but we also had to persuade... AC: Why did you want it to be like saucers? OL: Well I mean because in the end it had a softer look about it rather than just sort of trays coming up with square ends. Just that extra finesse if you like. The other thing - the problems i had at times - getting schemes through, not through Alec Colman, but through quantity surveyors who would say “that’s not the cheapest way, that’s not the most economical building.” and with office building they would come up and say - well the external tower which is an absolute feature, always, with an office - will take the lead the circulation tower and that leaves you with a completely clear office space and I just went to a quantity surveyor on one of the schemes and said “but that’s not - if you put that all in it’s more economical, because it’s a used formula of proportion of floor space to external surface.” And I said “well you’re not right because the best return is to take the tower outside and I give you 80% net office space and a much better office space which you’ll get a much higher rent for.” Which figures proved. OL: And we had that also with Taylor Woodrow, on the Tricorn, where on a couple of occasions they went back to Alec Colman and said “look, should we? You know we can do this a bit cheaper we can do this a bit easier.” AC: So having the stairs on the outside makes it cheaper? OL: Well you see, that doesn’t make the building cheaper, but it makes the return better. But that’s office buildings - doesn’t apply to retail. AC: So why are there towers in this complex as well?
OL: I can remember Taylor Woodrow saying to me “Why’ve you got those stripped windows? Why not have normal windows?” [Laughs] “It’s much easier you know!” I said “Look, this is not about the easiest way of doing things it’s the best way of doing things” and I had a big battle with Bernard Sunley because very often the contractors were part of the funders - they would be providing some of the money and Taylor Woodrow were in on the funding, providing the money to build... and Bernard Sunley, the builders... and John Sundley tried hard to argue that the design of the external staircase and the balconies was very much more expensive - and I had a great battle with Alec Colman to persuade him to say “no sorry.” AC: So Alec Colman didn’t want these stairs then? OL: No! No builder didn’t want it, he wanted to build it the easiest way. He’s saying the easiest way is the cheapest way and I’m saying the easiest way may be the cheapest way, but it’s not the best way of getting the best building and the best return. And Alec Colman understood the best return because he wanted to see the bottom Line. AC: So you think those are features that would attract people to come in, and therefore get a better return? OL: Well the best, the funds, the pension funds whatever they were - sometimes they were short term funds that would sell out at the end - they would be funds they wouldn’t necessarily be... They might take a view on the design but they wouldn’t necessarily take a view on the design they would take a look at the hard - the tenants, the values, the returns, and the potential profit. AC: I’ve mostly asked you everything that I’ve sort of been looking for. But I guess the last thing is do you have any criticisms of... You mentioned that there were some problems like the water leakages and the spiral ramps, but are there any other criticisms of the design? OL: People certainly seem to have an idea, property owners have an idea that concrete is a material that you don’t have to look after. You do. All buildings start to deteriorate from the day it’s put up, they start to deteriorate and unless you look after it, it will deteriorate. And in fact, if you deliberately don’t look after it, it will deteriorate even faster. Which is what happened. So, no problems with the material - I think the only mistake that we made was not in fact, to put in the flashing. If you think about the design of the building, if you put lead or zinc flashings everywhere. God, I mean - the cost and also the effect it would have on the purity of the design. But I mean that was undoubtedly was in bright sunshine, which is why people used to say oh “these corporate buildings would be great in the Mediterranean climate but not in the English climate” in our climate, you have to design according to the climate. And the principle is you throw the water off. That was a major... That didn’t help appearance wise. If you went to Portsmouth on a wet dreary day with the same concrete it didn’t look very bright. AC: And, Why do you think it was unpopular? OL: Oh... First initially - it was strange. And people react against things that are strange. And inevitably it is easier to get somebody looking at a building with a loaded question like “what do you think of this building, don’t you think it’s awful?” [Laughs]. The leading questions - and I did have one in that interview with, on the car park on the demolition building. The initial interview they got - I did one, it is on the Get Luder - on the BBC program Demolition - Kevin got a couple of passers by - I don’t know whether they were dreamed up deliberately or, anyway. And one of them was a woman and he sort of said to them “What do you think of this building?” This is me there you see, and she says “Well you know it’s not very beautiful really is it?” and then of course I chipped in and said “but think of it as it could be, not as it is. Just imagine it as when the concrete cleaned, the shopping centre rejuvenated, the car park cleaned up, colour introduced” I’m a great believe in introducing colour. And she said “hmmm, yeah I’ve done a couple of conversions myself and I know what you mean really! Yeah I think you’re right” And that’s actually on the television film. and at the end the producer said to me, ask Kevin what he thinks. And Kevin looked up and said “of all of these this is the one that should be kept”. But also I think it’s a question of fashion. When I was a student if I’d have said lets all go and knock the V&A museum and the memorial down – they’d have all joined in! Because at that time Victorian architecture wasn’t at all fashionable. Now of course if you even suggested it, I mean - so it is fashion. And I’ve no doubt at all that if the Tricorn and the Get Carter car park and the Rocket, the block of flats, if they hadn’t been knocked down they would now be listed... In the end they were all knocked down, the council just let them deteriorate. What they should have done kept them. Redevelop them, as they were outdated. I mean they could have sold the block off to a private developer. Except politically they weren’t prepared to do that in Gateshead Council. And the private developer would have sold those flats with those views. Because the views over Tyneside - used to be as you went into Newcastle on the train, as you got near the river, just going over the river if you looked to the left you would see two standard 60’s type tower blocks and in the middle was the Rocket and boy the Rocket was totally different. It’s ridiculous because they were flats that could have been renovated and instead they knocked them down and what’s been produced in the place of the Get Carter car park is... AC: I think Kevin McCloud was right, they shouldn’t have been knocked down. And the Tricorn shouldn’t have been knocked down, it was one of the most dramatic of your buildings. OL: Looking at it quite coldly, forgetting anything about architectural merit or whether it should be listed - its an expensive bit of built building. How do we make use of it. I mean all the problems of knocking it down, the cost, the materials, what do you do with the rubble and those things. So there should be a presumption that you keep a building unless you can justify knocking it down. But there you are. AC: I agree. Would it have been the one that you’d have chosen to keep if you had a choice? OL: I think Portsmouth’s lost something by knocking it down. They admit that themselves now because you know, ten years after they knocked it down they ran a big one day seminar in celebration of the Tricorn and got me to speak about it. It could have been - Kate Mackintosh did a scheme to renovate it and it could have been. But the whole point is that, having knocked it down on the basis that they would put up something much better, they haven’t put anything up at all.
AC: That’s true, that’s very sad really. OL: And thats because they haven’t got a clue about the economics. There isn’t room for another big shopping development in Central Portsmouth because of the Cascades. OL: What’s replaced the Trinity Square in the Get Carter car park is appalling. It’s a nondescript extension of Tesco with a few shops and the student flats over are appalling. Have you seen the 10 minute documentary film, Get Luder. Its a documentary film they made of me watching the Get Carter car park being knocked down. Get Luder. (The replacement) It hadn’t been built then but I said “What I’ve seen of whats going to replace.” I said – “you won’t have any television cameras and great controversy and discussion going on when thats going to be knocked down. If you are going to knock it down make sure you put something better or thats at least as good or better.” What they have done at Gateshead is stupid, they have knocked down an iconic landmark that you couldn’t miss. AC: I think thats the same in Portsmouth. OL: Yes, anyway its happened and again in that film I was asked. How do you feel about your building being knocked down and I said, “I’ve had a son, i’ve lost him, I’ve lost a wife, thats anguish. this is not only sad, its stupid.” [Laughs]. [Discussion on Tricorn comes to an end but conversation continues on].
Architectural history is being lost by the demolition of brutalist buildings. The Tricorn Centre, once Portsmouth's iconic brutalist buildin...
Published on Jan 2, 2019
Architectural history is being lost by the demolition of brutalist buildings. The Tricorn Centre, once Portsmouth's iconic brutalist buildin...