Derwent Tower

Owen Luder and Brian Jones Partnership

At 85 metres tall, Derwent Tower, or the “Dunston Rocket” as it is known locally, was one of the tallest buildings on Tyneside.

It was one of three towers planned as part of the redevelopment of the Ravensworth Road area in Dunston. The other two were never built. They were substituted by the low-rise maisonettes that exist on the site today and which were originally connected to the tower via a bridge structure.

Proximity to the river and poor soil conditions determined that the foundation design would be complex. A team of Swiss engineers were brought in and the idea of using a buoyancy foundation was proposed. It took the form of a large, concrete caisson, 45 metres in diameter, which was sunk into the ground. A helix floor cast into the circular caisson provided two floors of underground parking as well as giving reinforcement to the foundation structure.

To protect the flats in the event of flooding, the tower itself is lifted above the ground and supported on nine flying buttresses that give the building its rocket-like shape.

Each floor has seven flats, arranged radially, with the service stair and lifts at the centre. Two-bedroom flats occupy the lower floors, and from the 11th floor to the 29th where the tower is narrower, one bedroom flats.

Architecturally, Derwent Tower is a fine example of the Brutalist style, flaunting its structural and functional integrity in all its concrete glory. However, despite efforts by local groups and architect Owen Luder to save the tower it failed to gain listing in 2009. In 2012, the tower was demolished.

Image 1 copyright of Andrew Mitchell under the Creative Commons License
Images 2-5 copyright of John and Karen Topping
Image 6-7 copyright of authors