Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Huw Lewis Column

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Huw Lewis Column

Article excerpt

Byline: By Huw Lewis

It is unfortunate the celebration that has greeted the news that Westgate House is finally to be demolished this summer has obscured just what an awful building is planned to replace it.

We are in grave danger of repeating the mistakes of the past ( only with the ugly offence of our unloved tower on stilts replaced by mediocrity.

The sooner Westgate House comes down the better. It regularly tops polls to find the North East's least favourite building. It is infamous even to people who do not know its name but grimace at its outline every time they step out of Newcastle's Central Station.

And this is the brutal monolith's greatest sin ( it is one of the first sights a visitor to the North-East comes across. It defines Newcastle as the kind of regional city which allows poor modern buildings to spring up amid its listed historic finery. The kind of city which lets developers do as they please, so desperate is it for their money. The kind of city which does not care about its heritage.

This is the kind of city Newcastle may once have been, but is no longer. The whole point of using public money to buy up Westgate House just to remove it from the skyline demonstrates this.

So why allow such a poor construction to replace it? The new building (pictured below) ticks a few boxes ( it is six storeys high to match the surrounding roofline, and curved at one end to reflect its next door neighbour.

But to claim these two details alone makes it an appropriate design is like claiming a Ford Transit Van matches a Bentley Continental because they are about the same length and both have engines.

This new building will have the gothic marvel of the Weatherspoons bar to one side, the elegant neo-classicism of the Literary and Philosophical Society opposite and the stylish turn-of-the-century commercial grandeur of the Collingwood Buildings alongside.

These buildings are separated in time by almost 80 years but share a sense of ambition and grandeur that unites them despite their very different styles.

So why, in their midst, should we tolerate an edifice with all the imagination of an Ikea kitchen unit? …

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