In August 2010 the Newcastle Chronicle ran the headline 'Bank vaults delaying demolition of city eyesore' in reference to the brutalist Bank of England building located on Pilgrim Street in Newcastle Upon Tyne, on a prime site at the entrance to the city.
With the heritage of Brutalism in Newcastle and across the country under threat - Owen Luder's Gateshead Trinity Square and the Newcastle City Library amongst a number of already demolished in recent years - the indefinite delaying of the Bank of England's demolition offered a site to explore the heritage of brutalism and propose viable alternative for its rehabilitation in the urban environment.
Built in the late 1960s as a part of the infamous T. Dan Smith's plans for a new masterplan of the centre of Newcastle to a modernist rationale, one of the main issues with the building was the production of an awkward public route through the site and immediate context. Plans to make the site a link in a longer pedestrian route through town required the re-orientation of the building to address the individual pedestrian. This change in priority drove the material and structural agenda of the redesign. Whilst aiming to stay true to the brutalist aesthetic principles regarding the use of concrete, the design focussed on a more approachable tactility through a series of material explorations.
The programme for the building's re-appropriation as a bankers monastery and charity base was an attempt to revive the social agenda that existed at the heart of the Smithson's brutalist manifesto of 1954. Subverting the idea of financial capital as inherent to banks, the new programme offered a social agenda that is not for profit, as well as providing a place for guilty bankers to contribute their bit back to society.
Awards: RIBA Part II Hadrian Medal. RIBA Part II Silver Medal Nomination. HB Saint Memorial Award.