The Tricorn Centre was an infamous ‘concrete modern’ shopping complex/car park, built in Portsmouth in the 1960’s.
At first it was critically acclaimed; but after a few years of actual use it came to be widely considered an eyesore of bad design that blighted the city.
But it was also the flourishing site of trader stalls and small shops run by local businessmen. By the early 1990s it had achieved the dubious honour of being a combined joke/white elephant/crime magnet & was earmarked for demolition; over several years, the traders/shops were forced out (many of whom then went bust) and the place shut down.
But then, rather than actually do something with the property or area, Portsmouth Council left the Tricorn derelict and decaying. In 2003 it was finally boarded up, and in January 2004 the boards had grown ‘comment spaces’ (by Jeannie Kerswell) and an advert for a proposed redevelopment. Demolition finally began in March 2004, and the Tricorn is now completely demolished, although any new buildings will not be built until 2010 at least (if the infamous Spinnaker Tower is anything to go by).
I decided to photograph and hopefully capture for posterity the comment boards & also take some of the last pictures of the Tricorn, as like many Portsmouth residents I have memories of navigating the bizarre internals (one at 4am helping out in filmmaking by playing a Combat 18 thug, a memorable experience for sure). I am an amateur photographer, so apologies for the quality of the photos!
The eastern spiral on-ramp on the north-east side.
Another shot of the on-ramp. The sun shines down on Pompey town.
This is a walkway underneath the on-ramp section, towards where the market used to be.
Looking towards the west.
The rather bland buildings facing the Tricorn.
Looking towards the market area. This used to be a vibrant local business area; today only a handful of ‘Poundstretcher’-type shops remain, and even most of these have left.
A shot of the often bizarre architecture – what the hell is in that? A lift mechanism?
Next to it, the biggest Laserquest arena in Europe – before the council forced it to close down. The Tricorn had the futurist dystopian look down cold.
The redbrick building in the background is the Cascades.
Banner for the Cascades, which is filled with high-street shops and big names, so has had funding, publicity, and attention lavished on it. It lacks any charm or personality, however.
The Western Spiral On-Ramp.
The south side, where the market area used to be. This was a bustling throughfare when I came to Portsmouth in 1992.
The street traders have mostly disappeared, being forced out by the Council into the top end of Commercial Road.
Notice that even though the Tricorn has stood derelict for over five years, and been boarded up for over six months, the lights are still on – in broad daylight.
A shot of the yucky stalagmites. They’re probably caused by limestone being forced out of concrete under pressure, but they look like someone was sick on the ceiling in 1973, and that pretty much sums up the atmosphere.
"Tricorn Shopping Centre"
Charlotte’s Superstore. Needless to say this place used to be packed with shops selling everything, until the council forcibly moved them on.
Part of the flats, yes, flats, incorporated into the design. Apparently they weren’t lived in.
I put the camera over the top of the boarding to take this shot. The Tricorn’s internal maze-like architecture, beloved of muggers, vandals and perverts over the years, can be glimpsed.
The back of some Commercial Road shops adjacent to the Tricorn. I like this shot as it shows that despite the frequent decorating to the business front,s the underlying shops date back to the 1900’s.
From the top of Cascades carpark. Some of the sheer majesty of the Tricorn can be seen here as it dominates this part of the Portsmouth landscape.
The infamous western spiral on-ramp.
The Tricorn roof. In the background is St. Mary’s Church.
A close-up of the Tricorn roof.
The market area again.
Who needs multi-million dollar sets? Just look at the potential in that rooftop! At least one Doctor Who episode in there at least.
Paulsgrove can be seen in the background, and graffiti in the foreground.
The headquarters of Zurich Insurance in the background (mirrored windows).
The banner for the planned redevelopment. Interestingly, at first it was just the slogan – the URL at the bottom appeared after the consultation period ended…
Here come the ‘comment spaces’. They were plastic areas you could write on with felt tip pens, in the shape of jars of Marmite – "you either love it or you hate it".
The comment spaces in situ.
The first of the opinion boards. "It has the best central view of the city to hang about in. It has the best suicide spot in the city centre to jump from."
"let’s keep it and stick a groovy garden on top where u can sip cocktails and watch the sun go down over pompey"
"It could be seen as a memorial to suicide"
"Loved driving up the car ramps – FAST!"
"This place of former dreams turned to endless nightmares of rottenness and rats – MACK’S SHACK" (a local business)
"I hate it… it’s what I have to look at when I open my curtains."
"Turn it into a giant pie store!"
A big Marmite jar.
"I still see that spark in you!"
"Pull the f***ing thing down… I’ve shot pigeons and rats in here and I’ve seen two jumpers jump from here."
"the colour was on the inside".
The memory area. Here people could place fragments of their lives for posterity, however the similarity of much of the handwriting means that they may be transcribed from local interviews and not be fully ‘genuine’, or maybe completely fictional.
"Gay nite at Granny’s… the streamer tinsel on the walls + lights on the dance floor. It was small and smoky – love it." Granny’s/Basins appears to have been the Tricorn’s famous resident nightclub; I’ve been in Portsmouth since 1992 but never heard of it.
"I wore a skull-and-crossbones shirt that I bought from the King’s Road"
"Leaving the Tricorn was so different from leaving anywhere else. You had that first blast of the air, the whiff of the burger van and the walk down the car exit. You could be as LOUD as you liked as there was no-one about… It seemed like the Wild West to me."
We called it the concrete nipple, apparently.
Remembrances of an 80’s punk.
A slightly pretentious (or is it poignant?) list of retail unit spaces.
"We were practically born down here. I had a stall for 25 years, outside Mr Clive’s."
"After failing to be the Casbar In The Sky, it sank to its own level, it had a following – cheap and convenient. Local people found it right on their doorstep. That’s Pompey – trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear."
"There was a little horse in the Tricorn, my dad used to put me on it.
"What Next?" The public makes their opinions as to what should happen with the Tricorn (or its replacement), all for the council to ignore it in favour of some backhander-proffering construction conglomerate.
"No more hotels. Something for children. A green play area and a place to sit."
"Independent shops like the Tricorn used to have – Portsmouth already has enough sterile big names. Make it a new Southsea"
"I would like to see an ‘arts space’ on the site as Portsmouth’s sadly lacking in this department. No more shops please."
"Demolition Day". As is typical of the council mentality, this was marketed as D-Day, trivialising the World War II event which Portsmouth has great ties to. It was, of course, raining.
A 100-strong crowd gathered for this event, complete with a local radio station mobile stage churning out chavchoons at a ruined-by-feedback 120 decibels. A digger knocked out a chunk of concrete (previous image), and that was pretty much it, for a while. Yes, the official start was 95% ceremony and things took a few more weeks to actually get going.
The highly-priced car park which will probably occupy the site for the next 5 years.
The excellent Tricorn Doughnut site with wonderful black and white photos. Even contains a Tricorn FAQ! "No doubt it will be replaced by yet another uninspired, commercial venture with the same shops, same facilities and same everything else as any other shopping centre."
The corporate-friendly Cascades, next door, and Gunwharf Quays, home of the Spinnaker Tower. Despite all efforts by the people who live in Portsmouth, these are probably the best guide as to what we will end up with on the Tricorn spot. Soulless redbrick buildings full of interchangeable chain shops and ‘high-class’ outlets selling designer china, becoming a human safari as the pubs and nightclubs fill up after dark.
Shopping in the ‘Sixties: "It is a true Corbusian fantasy in Britain… In 1967 the Tricorn won a Civic Trust award for its "exciting visual composition". However, in 1968 it was voted Britain’s fourth ugliest building."
The Portsmouth Society, an extension of the Civic Society, who campaigned to keep the Tricorn. I understand the Society is one of those dubious ‘local organisations’ that is little more than a front for some national body and has little resonance with people who actually live in the area.