Built in 1910, Spanish City is a truly iconic building for the people of the North East. Sadly, over decades of poor maintenance and ill-advised changes to the building, it eventually fell empty for over 20 years. We were tasked with the challenge of restoring it to its former glory – making it a shining figurehead for the regeneration of North Tyneside’s coast.
The building’s importance to locals made this a sensitive project from the start: we would need to do justice to its history as a seaside pleasure complex, while giving it a contemporary feel that was relevant to 21st century visitors. That relevance included making Spanish City accessible to everybody – a significant challenge in a historic building.
We knew that locals’ views were key to understanding how Spanish City could best be brought back to life. We engaged the community with open days, competitions and exhibitions, and used pre-paid postcards to collect their thoughts on how to approach the project.
It was clear that the Grade II listed dome was the centrepiece of the building. An early modification had added an extra floor below the dome, closing it off—we removed the floor and opened the full triple-height space under the dome for the first time in almost a century.
We added new extensions to the building, cladding them in patinated copper to create a clear distinction between old and new. Throughout the project we worked closely with an access consultant to ensure that every visitor could enjoy Spanish City to its full potential.
The restoration has transformed the seafront and Whitley Bay, and sent ripples across the North East. Over 16,000 visitors attended the opening weekend in July 2018, and the local Chamber of Trade has grown from single figures to well over 200. Most importantly, the restoration has returned a much-loved landmark to the people of the North East – and secured it for future generations.
“This is something the people of Whitley Bay and North Tyneside all deserve – a high-quality venue that we can be proud of and that is completely unique… It has been a pleasure to see residents finally getting the chance to step back inside the Spanish City after all these years and to see their faces light up when they walk in.”– NORMA REDFEARN CBE, ELECTED MAYOR OF NORTH TYNESIDE