Monday, January 28, 2008

Coliseum Shopping Centre

Having a had an unusually unrewarding meeting with two of my theatrical clients, I. and A., I find myself and these individuals being given a lift back (from the meeting's mystery location) to Glasgow by my mother and her sister. Shortage of space means that myself and A. (not a big guy, unlike I.) have to cram into the boot of the car. Somewhere - think it's called 'Irvine' or 'Saltcoats' but it feels a lot more like Paisley - A. has to get out for an unspecified reason. After waiting for some time, I decide to see where he's gone. It'd not long before I get bored looking and phone the car's occupants to explain that I'll make my own way back. I've just remembered a place I haven't visited for decades, and I want to see if it's changed much.

I feel something approaching ecstasy as I realise that it's still there, having been architecturally updated in a half-hearted way over the years, but essentially unchanged; faded and slightly altered but mainly recognisable: the Coliseum Shopping Centre. Drawn back by my increasingly heartfelt nostalgia for excitingly-designed spaces of my childhood, I am delighted to recognise key elements of the complex - the ribbed black rubber flooring, the steel lifts, designed community areas such as seating and a small dancefloor with PA system - mostly fenced off through underuse or poor maintenance... of course, the concrete.

The Centre is still fairly busy - pensioners sit in a café area; the tables are obviously modern replacements but the very seventies ceramic light-hangings above them are part of the original plan... neddy-looking youths jostle each other on stylish cement-and-iron ramps and stairwells, now chipped and dripping loose mosaic.

A fantastically enjoyable dream. Very easy to see this emerging from my sense of loss at the current obliteration of the megaproject architectural visions that brightened my childhood geography, and my frustration at the Pavlovian 'brutalist = bad' convention that has dominated Scottish planning and popular feeling for the last twenty years or so. Also easy to indentify some of the specific memory-sources for this dream, namely: the Anderston Centre (Glasgow), the original Habitat and Heron House(Bothwell Street, Glasgow), the original Piazza Centre (Paisley), possibly the Magnum Centre in Irvine (which would account for the appearance of the placename)... and the rubber flooring definitely comes from Greenock Public Library. All places of almost science-fictional excitement for me as a boy, and almost all eradicated or altered beyond recognition. There seems to be an actual Coliseum Shopping Centre in Manchester somewhere. It was definitely spelt this way in this dream (possibly influenced by the 'Coliseum' carved sign on what is now the Carling Academy Glasgow, and clearly visible from trains leaving Central Station.