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The Tricorn: Life and Death of a Sixties Icon

Love it or hate it – there’s no middle ground in reactions to the Tricorn, the Brutalist, bold, multi-layered and multi-use megastructure built in Portsmouth between 1962 and 1966 and demolished in 2004.

The Tricorn features in histories of architecture. Its chunky imagery has spawned progeny – in the UK – the Lloyds building’s exterior staircases, the Barbican’s curving upstands – and in buildings in other countries – leading ultimately to the birth of high-tech. The Tricorn has been celebrated – and reviled – in festivals, ballet, music, performance art, videos, websites, films, virtual fly-throughs, poetry, books, television and radio. How many other buildings have inspired such a flowering? Despite its demolition, it still vividly lives in people’s memories and dreams.

This forthcoming book by Celia Clark and Robert Cook explores what makes an architectural icon – and what unmade it. It sets the Tricorn within its architectural context: Brutalism and the 1960s. It lays bare how the unpopularity of Brutalism affected the Tricorn’s fate. It draws on two sources which are not usually combined: a collage of documentary material, and the rich seam of people’s memories of the building. The Tricorn’s architects: Owen Luder and Rodney Gordon explain the building’s genesis and reflect on its fate. The 1812 Overture was played at its demolition – a reflection of the Tricorn’s heroic status in people’s imagination. Tom Dyckhoff, architectural correspondent of The Times, has written a brilliant foreward to the book.

The Tricorn: Life and Death of a Sixties Icon Celia Clark and Robert Cook designed by Dan Bernard of 131 Design Ltd. £19.99 plus £4.99 P&P.