Fairground fun and regeneration in Architects’ Journal Letters

Perhaps it does take pushing 40 years to revive the pleasure garden idea of regeneration (‘Ryder gets green light for massive Newcastle wheel’, AJ 31.07.19). While the London Eye wasn’t exactly that, it did revive the idea of ‘fairground fun’, architecture and tourism. Brighton followed with a large lift.

In 1980 CZWG won a competition sponsored by Tyne and Wear Development Corporation for the regeneration of Newcastle Quayside. Fair enough, we did succumb to the ‘fairground’ concept, but it was much more complex in its intentions and appeal. The architectural idea (sketch above right) was a super graphic spelling out the location, the joined-up writing formed by a roller-coaster with a big wheel making the ‘Q’, filling the length of what was a blank canvas. Our idea was that of a mobile attraction (essentially fairground, but subject to a much longer stay) that was gradually moved over the years downstream through a very restricted corridor away from the city centre. It would be placed downstream of the existing underused buildings such that they would house the natural adjuncts to fairground – shops, cafés, restaurants, etc.

Buoyed by the success of a competition win, the practice did try to find a willing developer and the land owner/ house builder Stanley Miller was cajoled into paying fees to see if roller coaster design could be equally cajoled into spelling a word. Alas not, and the ideas of a structure spelling ‘Quayside’ was sadly abandoned after the roller-coaster designer said the area wasn’t big enough.

But 20 years later we did make a contribution to the Quayside’s development. Terry Farrell, a son of Newcastle, did a masterplan and Amec Developments held an invited competition for an office building on two combined plots. We won and our design at St Ann’s Wharf was built.

Rex Wilkinson

Architects' Journal Letters (12.09.19)