GOOD, bad and ugly buildings in South Tyneside came under the spotlight this week.
The best and the worst the borough has to offer in terms of its buildings were laid out to members of the council’s Place Select Committee at South Shields Town Hall.
John Sparkes, the authority’s corporate lead for regeneration, compiled a report which highlighted buildings regarded as badly designed – including South Shields JobCentre in Chapter Row – and those which are regarded as a credit to the borough, including the Quadrus Centre in Boldon.
But he acknowledged that loving or loathing a particular structure or building was “a question of personal taste”.
And concern was raised that many modern-day buildings do not have the “staying power” of the best from the past – with particular admiration given to the continued longevity of South Shields Town Hall.
Other areas highlighted for praise included One Trinity Green and the Littlehaven Promenade in South Shields.
And best practice in the design of our shopfronts was also highlighted, with a recent “subtle” image change at the McDonald’s branch in King Street, South Shields, being contrasted with the more gaudy frontage at the Shoe Zone shop in the same street.
Mr Sparkes said it was important that our buildings are both “durable and fit for purpose” and that they help create closer communities and a “strong sense of place”.
He said: “A building needs to have an enduring quality for future generations to enjoy.
“I think a good example of when that hasn’t happened is the old Gateshead car park. It was very much in vogue when it was built in the 1960s, but in terms of its longevity, maybe not so good.
“We need to use high-quality materials that will last. Sustainability is a big issue, and we need to reduce environmental impacts to ensure we are building for the future and that buildings complement our townscape.
“We have some great examples of good design in South Tyneside.
“Hebburn Hub is really cutting-edge design. It is about setting out a benchmark for quality.
“The Quadrus Centre, I remember passing that building before I worked for this local authority, and I thought it was fantastic.
“It’s a really landmark building on a prominent site. I know that some people love it and some hate it, but I think it’s great and I love the way it weathers on different sides.”
Coun Eddie McAtominey, Labour for Hebburn South, said: “Design is very much a matter of personal choice. We are now in a building which is more than 100 years old and it is still one of the most attractive facades in the North East of England.
“Can you say that about modern buildings? Will Jarrow School still be inspirational in 100 years’ time? Will Trinity Green be thought of as a wonderful building in 100 years time?”
Coun Olive Punchion, Labour for Whitburn and Marsden, added: “If you want an example of bad design take a look at the extension to Mortimer Community College and the dreadful coloured panels.
“The people opposite dub it ‘the monstrosity’.”
Labour’s Coun Bill Brady, of the West Park ward, said: “The Quadrus building was originally criticised and I had people, even members of my family, calling me saying ‘what the hell is that?’. Now it is regarded as a fantastic building.”
Other areas praised in the report include the Reed Street housing complex in South Shields and the design of the new Hebburn Hub.
The King Street shopping area came in for some criticism – particularly the design of the block where the former Game store was based.
But there was praise for the original frontages which have been retained in the street.
Other buildings highlighted for praise in the report include Kirpatricks pub in Ocean Road, South Shields; the Barclays Bank building in King Street, the Riddicks ‘corner’ building in Fowler Street and South Shields Museum and Art Gallery in Ocean Road.
Members were also told that the council is keen to incorporate public art as part of its ambitious ‘365’ masterplan for the regeneration of South Shields town centre, given how popular the ‘Conversation Piece’ at Littlehaven has proved.