The Derwent Tower in the Dunston area of Gateshead – beset with problems and condemned as ‘all that was wrong with the past’ – is to be pulled down
Nicknamed the Rocket, the 29-storey ‘brutalist’ tower was designed by the Owen Luder Partnership.
English Heritage has now backed plans to pull it down and clear the site and surrounding area for a major redevelopment led by Gateshead council. English Heritage previously rejected an application to list the building, once featured in a 1970s TV advert but has now given it immunity from listing.
The 85m housing block, completed in 1973, was bedevilled by poor ground conditions and mirrored the town’s multi-storey car park – another Luder design which the council has begun demolishing.
Derwent Tower’s underground car park that constantly flooded and pigeons found their way into the 10,000 gallon water tanks installed between the 10th and 11th floors.
Lifts frequently broke and water pressure was very low; damp was a major problem in many of the 196 flats.
Council housing spokesman Angela Armstrong said: ‘Many people see the Derwent Tower as representing all that was wrong with the past, when buildings were designed and created rather than places to live.
‘Some also don’t appreciate its serious structural problems, which are due to its poor design and its poor standards of construction.’
Speaking to the AJ, Luder said: ‘The council has allowed, indeed encouraged, deterioration but these flats can be brought up to modern standards and the Rocket kept as the landmark in the new development.
‘The 360 degree views over Tyneside are breathtaking.’
Jon Wright of the Twentieth Century Society agreed: ‘This is horribly shortsighted. It would not be difficult to refurb what is basically a block of flats - especially when the area is crying out for housing.
‘Luder’s work has been victimised and a target for demolition. His buildings are being eradicated from this country. It’s English Heritage 3. Luder 0.’