DescriptionA concrete brute of a car park opens for a farewell series of guided tours this weekend ahead of its dismantling. Famous as the setting for a key scene of Michael Caine's cult gangster movie Get Carter, the 12-storey monster in the heart of Gateshead is dying with a grace denied it during its short and controversial life. Temporary floodlighting will turn the raw, stained concrete into something ethereal after dark, while students record every crumbling pillar and the rust on steel rods which have started to protrude from the flat decks. The top five floors, long closed on safety grounds, will also be open, allowing close-up views of the stairwell parapet where Caine hurled Coronation Street's Bryan Mosley, playing a corrupt property developer, to his death. The tours include the chance to peer through the grimy windows of the rooftop restaurant, a ground-breaking notion when Owen Luder, the former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, designed it in 1964. But the actual room will remain closed as it has been since the building was finished, because of technical problems and a lack of commercial interest in such an eerie dining spot. "The car park has got to go, but we felt that its passing should not be unmarked," said David Bunce, director of communities and culture for Gateshead council, which is laying on the wake." Luder, who is 80 and has already outlived another of his brutalist town centres with the demolition of Portsmouth's Tricorn centre in 2004, has expressed regret, but welcomed the fact that his buildings "have led people to react to architecture". The car park is open for tours today and tomorrow. Visiting is in groups with hard hats and a compulsory safety briefing.
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Added by: Simon Cotterill
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