There was much triumphant jubilation earlier this month, inspired by the news that demolition of the much maligned and unloved former Golden Egg building was finally due to start. This week removal of the link bridge to the shopping centre commenced and the building itself will finally come down next week.
This large concrete and glass cube of a building stands in King’s Square, detached from the buildings around it: a monstrous carbuncle on Gloucester’s rear and a testament to the dubious design principles of the 1970s.
Strangely, however, I find myself in two minds.
On the one hand, I can’t argue with the fact that the building entirely lacks any aesthetic appeal, and I am definitely keen to finally see some signs of progress on the long-awaited development of King’s Square.
On the other hand, I can’t help feeling that King’s Square as a whole has had a pretty raw deal over recent times.
People like to look back on an imagined golden age and I am most grateful to this desire to reminisce as it means people buy my books: Gloucester Then & Now particularly relies on the desire to compare the cityscape of today with that of the past and, generally, find it wanting.
There are people of a certain age who remember King’s Square as a bus station and car park. I am not old enough to remember this, but I have seen pictures and it looked distinctly unappealing. Nonetheless, people still hark back to this as a better time.
In fact, this stage of King’s Square’s history only happened because the war put a stop to the original plans to develop the area. The final design, with fountains and waterfalls, was part of the plans put forward by planning consultant Mr G.A. Jellicoe. It was completed in 1972, when it won a Civic Trust Award.
A short video recently posted on the Facebook page “Gloucester a Trip Back in Time” shows the pride in the area at the time, and the comments include much fond reminiscing about playing on the stepping stones.
So what went wrong? Well, it seems it was too expensive to maintain and by the 1980s it had fallen into ruin. Several failed attempts at re-development have resulted in it being levelled as an interim measure, leaving it as an unattractive waste of space, with the unoccupied Golden Egg building as just the most hideous part of a generally ugly part of the city.
Need it have gone that way? Couldn’t something more imaginative been done? As I understand it, the demolition of the Golden Egg isn’t to make way for development, as that is still some way off yet, it is just to appease the crowd baying for its destruction. I’m sure that with some imagination it could have been brought into use, perhaps even making an asset of its 1970s design.
Overall I look forward to the future development of King’s Square, hopefully bringing life and pride back to the city centre, but I can’t help feeling that in 50 years time people will be looking back and tutting at us for destroying such a wonderful example of 1970s architecture, just as we moan about those who came before us.