Most town centres nowadays have taken a hit and have had to adapt. A decline in footfall and online shopping has left many of them empty and full of vacant shops. Hairdressers, beauty parlours, charity shops and cafes seem to be the sole survivors. As of yet, Amazon hasn’t found a way to replicate these services and shops online.

Cumbernauld Town Centre – designed in the 1960s as the ‘very heart of its new town’ is no exception to this new reality. It has taken more of a hit because ultimately this lack of retail and footfall has meant that it’s not only ‘lost its soul’ – but it’s lost the main reason for its very existence. And for Britain’s first all-purpose indoor shopping mall, that means demolition.

In reality the demolition of the Town Centre has been on the cards way before the demise of the high street. In 2005, Cumbernauld’s Centre was voted number 1 in a Channel 4 poll, involving 10,000 people, to find the building most people would like to see demolished. The dubious accolade came weeks after the town won the Carbuncle Award for Scotland’s most dismal town in an architecture magazine.

But for all its faults, the Town Centre is still loved and is recognised internationally as an icon of post-war megastructural design theory. Architects, academics, and brutalists have long argued its place as an architectural gem with heritage and historical value and that the Town Centre should be saved, restored, and rejuvenated.

The decision to demolish the Town Centre has therefore been a controversial one. A lengthy public consultation exercise by Historic Environment Scotland (H.E.S) to have the building listed failed as three-quarters of those who responded wanted it demolished. North Lanarkshire Council are poised to purchase the building and will begin a long-term relocation and demolition project with a proposal to provide a new multi-purpose town hub and other community and commercial development.

So these are the last days, weeks, months, and years of The Cumbernauld Centre – if estimates are correct it will be gone in the next five years.

Today when you wander its empty corridors you sense the building has just fought and lost its last battle – its brave new world colour palettes, long corridors, and concrete pillars look dated and from another universe altogether. Sci-fi fans say it reminds them of 2000 AD sci-fi comics. Or perhaps it resembles a movie set – like Blade Runner, if it were filmed in the West of Scotland on a rainy Monday afternoon in November.

Google Maps has yet to provide an internal map to get around the site and you could spend hours wandering round in circles – perpetually lost. When it rains, the pathway becomes more of an assault course of puddles, and semi-permanent buckets in place in the corridors try in vain to do the simplest of jobs.

Most residents of Cumbernauld say the heart of its town has had its time, it’s now completely unfunctional and the town needs not just a repair, but a completely new heart transplant. A few lone voices of academics and architects continue their ‘fight’ to save the building but it all must feel a bit futile at this stage.

And that leads us up to today – Summer 2023 – and a new documentary and collaborative project for Recollective as we embark on Concrete Dreams – The Rise and Fall of Cumbernauld Centre. We are neither Cumbernauld ‘experts’, architects, brutalists or lovers of concrete. And we sit on the fence when it comes to demolition – we are neither for or against. Our aim is to capture the stories from the people who use/used the Town Centre, at this pivotal point in time in its history, when it’s all about to disappear.