College Unveils Name Of New Theatre

The new East Durham College theatre, at the Peterlee Campus, will be officially named as the Lubetkin Theatre, following approval by the Board of Governors. It is to be named after, Russian born architect, Berthold Lubetkin. Lubetkin was a leading architect of the early/mid 20th Century, he was a key player in modernism and set up the highly regarded Tecton movement.

In 1947 Lubetkin was commissioned, by the Ministry of Town and Country Planning to be master planner and chief architect for Peterlee new town. “It is a dream of our time” he had written optimistically in 1948. “In the midst of national austerity, we are going to build a new town, lock, stock and barrel.” The topography was inspiring, the social need for the town compelling. Lubetkin's masterplan for Peterlee included a new civic centre for which he proposed a number of high rise towers. However the extraction of coal was to continue under the town for several years which posed a risk of subsidence. As a result the National Coal Board, an agency of the Ministry of Fuel and Power, would only consider a dispersed low density development.

Despite investigating a number of options that would have allowed coal extraction to continue without preventing the proposed development, the NCB would not alter their policy. Inter-ministerial battles ensued, and despite attempts resolve the matter at cabinet level the difference in approach between the ministries remained. Frustrated at the unresolved bureaucratic battles. Having flung himself into the intellectual challenge of redefining the modern town, only to find his vision mired in red tape and bureaucratic opposition, in 1949 Lubetkin offered his resignation, all his work wasted.

As there is nothing in Peterlee to honour him and his original ambition for the town, the College thought it would be fitting to use his name for the new theatre, particularly as his original plans for the town included a theatre.

East Durham College has had approval from his daughter, Sasha, to use his name. She is absolutely thrilled and will officially open the Lubetkin Theatre on Mon 5th Oct 2009.