The Tricorn Centre

The Tricorn: The Life and Death of a Sixties Icon
Celia Clark and Robert Cook Foreword by Tom Dyckhoff ISBN 9780956249807 £19.99 Reviewed by Jon Wright – Twentieth Century Society Journal

As the years continue to pass since its short-sighted destruction, Portsmouth's 'concrete casbah; gets more fondly remembered. The Tricorn: the life and death of a sixties icon, written by the building's staunchest local defenders, Celia Clark and Robert Cook, is therefore both a requiem and a warning. Exploring how it came to be built and how the subsequent tide of local and national dislike and ambivalence finally overwhelmed its ramparts, Clark and Cook leave no stone unturned. More widely, it's a timely investigation into why Portsmouth along with so many other towns in the country has so struggled to value its monumental civic architecture from the 1960s. The book is something of a compendium, a scrapbook of the building's front and back pages with all the various viewpoints allowed a voice. Structurally the book is unconventional, with fascinating and passionate passages devoted to the building's colourful history mixing with rather more prosaic architectural detail – chapter 7 is devoted to the history of the Tricorn Club. Anecdote forms a huge part of Clark's all-encompassing study, and in collecting so many fond memories, Clark has uncovered a whole stratum of the city who actually loved the building and clearly loved being there.

Chapter 6, devoted to the building's commercial operation, ends with a quote from a former trader – "l always liked the ugliness of the Tricorn, it had a certain beauty.' The photographs are many and varied, giving added weight to the scrapbook feel. Quite stunning shots taken by Clark and other local campaigners in the building's final days, show Right and below: Portsmouth's demolished Tricorn Centre 26 – C20 Spring 2010 up close what a beautiful finish the building had. Colour shots of the destruction that followed therefore appear as records of vandalism on a massive scale in one shot a campaigner holds up a sign saying "we will regret it" – and so we do. This book is an unsolicited love letter to the Tricorn and an amalgamation of all the various documents, opinions, personalities and decisions that saw its rise and fa ll. Owen Luder and Rodney Gordon have their say of course, but it's the social and conservation history, rather than the architectural, which lingers in the memory. The Society continues to fight so that this does not happen again, but one feels that the people of Portsmouth should write an open letter to the people of Gateshead, Preston or Birmingham, such is the depth of feeling the Clark has uncovered. This is a remarkable book on a remarkable building.

Celia Clark interviewed for CCi TV

Writer and Campaigner Celia Clarke talks about her memories and fight to save the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth which was demolished in 2004. An edited version of this interview was originally broadcast.

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