Will the redevelopment of Cumbernauld Town Centre be another case of Fire and Forget
In March 2022, North Lanarkshire Council announced that it had agreed to the sale and redevelopment of The Centre, Cumbernauld, this decision has been met with widespread outrage by conservationists who recognise that Cumbernauld Town Centre in Irvine represents an important part of Scotland’s post-war cultural heritage.
It feels like a case of what could have been and what transpired. Opened with great fanfare, too quickly it fell victim to insufficient care and maintenance and became a twice winner of the Carbunkle Award. However, anyone who applauds the demolition will be going against a tide of important voices deeply disappointed by the decision.
Architects, historians and fans of brutalism are countering the notion that it is a project that ran its course and ran out of road and is simply beyond saving. What is clear is that if lessons learned from the demise in recent years of other large scale projects such as Robin Hood Gardens the most recent chapter in its history could read very differently. Some say that there is still an opportunity, with vision, to turn the decision to demolish on its head and repair and reimagine.
Created as part of the ‘New Town’ project, it was one of 27 across the UK built in response to drastic post-war housing shortages. Born at a time when the creation of mega-malls was a cause for celebration, at capacity the multi-storey car park could house 3500 cars. What it brought to the area is precisely what is needed today job security, “a new way of living to hundreds of thousands of people” underpinned by “good housing, new jobs and opportunities for leisure”.
Will the new project offer anything anywhere this vision? We do not know yet the true ramifications of war on European soil. The World Bank has used the word ‘catastrophe’ with prices of everything set to soar. Could there be a worse time to decide to demolish and rebuild when the prices of raw materials are simply unknown, when anchor tenants for a shopping centre may simply halt any plans to expand?
Architects: Cumbernauld Development Corporation Dudley Robert Leaker l Sir Lesley Hugh Wilson
Image Architectural Press Archive/RIBA Collections 1967