Friday, March 5, 2010

Another decade, another Master Plan

Few cities can have suffered more at the hands of their supposed stewards than the city of Newcastle. The argument is not, as one miffed correspondent wrote to the local newspaper after a interview with yours truly, (I paraphrase) that "some people seem to wish to preserve any old pile of stones", more what comes after said pile of stones have departed in the back of a lorry.

Newcastle City Council's relentlessly up-beat City Life* (well, they do have a colour photograph of dog's mess in this issue) announces on page 21 that it is wheeling out a new 'One Core Strategy' for the twin cities (sic) Gateshead and Newcastle. It's not that one is nervous, simply resigned. The photographs are hand picked and significantly do not dwell on Gateshead, a town which is either a masterpiece of the road makers art or a film set in waiting for a movie on life in the old East Germany. Prominent is a photograph (top in the reproduction above) of the Northumbria University's design and business schools building at Manor's, the one building put up in the city in recent decades to warrant serious attention for it's architectural pretensions. I like it at any rate. It made a staggering difference to what one noted critic correctly described as the "worst view in Newcastle". He might have had a touch more ambition in geographical terms but was otherwise on the money.

Co-incidentally, a fine new book has been published on the 'twins' – A Pevsner Series guide to Newcastle and Gateshead by Grace McCombie†. McCombie finds more over which to rejoice than Pevsner: Of Gateshead he once wrote “No one would choose to investigate the sights of Gateshead for fun”. That was before it was converted into a series of complex traffic islands. The book is an heroic attempt to shake people wake from a fifty year sleep even if, as I do suspect, they will come round to realise the losses – of buildings and opportunities to re-build – have been dire. But more of that another time.

In keeping with a new year's resolution to branch out, the Battlefield is going to be extended. I will be writing about some of the urban spaces and buildings which are familar to my everyday life as well as keeping a sharp eye open for more developments closer to home.

Here's a reminder.

* March to April 2010.

Newcastle and Gateshead: Pevsner City Guide (Pevsner Architectural Guides)
Yale University Press
ISBN: 0300126646
EAN: 9780300126648

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