55 Degrees North, Formerly Swan House, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK

Robert Matthew, Johnson - Marshall & Partners
Date Built
1963 - 1969 (refurbished in 2004 by Ryder & HKS)
Pilgrim Street
The building, formerly known as Swan House, occupies a prominent position in Newcastle City Centre.  This unmissable building sits atop a traffic roundabout that carries a busy road system through the city.  In 2002 the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, ran a story about the transformation of what they describe as a, "1960s concrete monstrosity," into, "165 executive flats, shops, bars and restaurants in a Continental-style plaza called 55° North," thereby, apparently shedding both its monstrosity status and its original name.  The article adds that, "The former BT complex towers above the busy Pilgrim Street traffic roundabout ... was voted one of the biggest eyesores on Tyneside by Chronicle readers in our Carbuncle Awards. Stephen Savage, acting director of enterprise, environment and culture at Newcastle Council said: 'This is right at the main gateway to the city and will be a huge improvement.' The £25 million investment shows people from outside the region have great confidence in Newcastle. This is helping to move us forward from a regional capital to a city of European significance."

Among Swan House's apparent sins against architecture is the fact that to build it in the 1960s required the demolition of what has been described as, "John Dobson's magnificent, Royal Arcade, built in 1831-32 by Richard Grainger."

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment describes the redevelopment of Swan House and the area around it as follows, "The space created around the southern and western edges of the building provides a new public pedestrian route through the site and represents a well used link between the city centre and the quayside."

Ryder, the architects of the 2004 make-over say of the brief that, "The redevelopment involved conversion and significant remodelling to create residential, office and leisure accommodation.  A landmark curving wall sweeps visitors towards entrance points.  The ... apartments ... enjoying spectacular views over the city."