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Newcastle’s controversial building

Before I started this research, my understanding of designed buildings was limited to meeting the design requirements as much as possible and how to go about designing as well as possible. But obviously no designer can guarantee that his own design will not fail. This is an article about what happens to a design that is controversial or even fails, and what it can do to a city.

The past of Newcastle’s Royal Arcade

Newcastle’s Royal arcade, on the east side of the city, has been a retail centre since its completion in 1832, but has not been a commercial success. The west side of the city became a centre of consumption, especially after the Eldon Sq shopping mall was built.

However, in the subsequent plan for the “Brasilia of the North”, a grand vision of the city, the designers made the bold decision to build the Royal Palace in the centre of the city. The designers took the bold decision to build a huge roundabout and another building near the royal arcade.

Victorian royal arcade Newcastle

Almost every city has its own royal arcade, however Newcastle’s was not preserved like those in other cities, but was artificially demolished.

The design model of Swan House

In the original design for Swan House, a redevelopment of the building was envisaged. However this programme did not materialise.

As more and more places of consumption were built on the west side of the city, this historic shopping street gradually went into decline.

The backdoor of royal arcade


However, the subsequent development has created a sizable gap with the ideal, and this building has not been perfectly preserved.

Eventually this building was demolished and in 1963-6 each brick was marked to facilitate subsequent rebuilding.

However only a copy of it was reconstructed, and this unpopular part was finally removed in 2002.

The demolition of the ‘fake’ Royal Arcade under Swan House, 2002 -shopping-12103429

The demolition of this historic building is seen by some as an act of cultural vandalism, depriving the city of an architectural treasure. But at the same time another view is that the dilapidated and decaying Victorian building should be demolished.

WestGate House

WestGate House has been the subject of much controversy since it was built in 1972. This modernist building is stuck like a knife in one of Newcastle’s most historic streets.

Newcastle’s Westgate House, once voted among England’s ugliest buildings, was demolished in January 2007 history/end-westgate-house-newcastle-city-22888456?int_source=mantis_rec&int_medium=web&int_campaign=more_like_this


At the time the building was constructed, it was seen as a symbol of foresight, as Newcastle was undergoing an urban transformation at the time.

However as time goes on, and the failure of the Ideal City programme, more and more people see it like an ugly scar running through the historic streets.

It wasn’t until 2005 that Newcastle City Council allowed a request for the building to be removed and renovation work has been underway ever since.

The arch over the road, the last section of Newcastle’s Westgate House to be demolished, January 27, 2007 history/end-westgate-house-newcastle-city-22888456?int_source=mantis_rec&int_medium=web&int_campaign=more_like_this

The plot of this building was later converted into a student residence.

Now it’s a student apartment N/A


However, the building that was later erected here is also modernist in style, but appears to be more integrated into the surrounding architecture.


Newcastle’s unique urban development attempt in the 1960s and 1970s led to a series of architectural changes, which in turn influenced the urban form. The public uses the city under these influences but also changes the city through their own feedback. The impact of a building being controversial is the impact of the public’s attitude on the attitude towards using the building, which in turn affects the life of the building and changes the urban form. Therefore, public impression and word of mouth are very worthy indicators.

This brings up a thought about how building designers can’t just be desperate when planning in anticipation of how their project will work if it’s successful, because the city won’t keep an unloved building around forever, they don’t even get a second chance before they are demolished, which creates a negative impact on the urban area and a waste of resources, as well as affecting the city itself.

Reference list

Morton, D. (2016). Recalling Newcastle’s great ‘lost’ shopping centre. [online] ChronicleLive. Available at:


Morton, D. (2021). The vanished Newcastle arcade which Grainger and Dobson got horribly wrong. [online] Chronicle Live. Available at:


Morton, D. (2022). The end for Westgate House, the Newcastle city centre concrete eyesore. [online] Chronicle Live. Available at: [Accessed 5 Jul. 2024].


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School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

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