Cumbernauld Town Centre

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East elevation of Cumbernauld Shopping Centre with the "Alien's Head"[1][2] in full view, 2005.

Cumbernauld town centre is the main shopping centre for the New town of Cumbernauld, Scotland. It is widely accepted as the UK's first shopping mall and was the world's first multi-level, multi-function, covered town centre, within a single structure.[citation needed] The centre has now been expanded by the newly completed addition of the Antonine Centre. The new centre links to the existing one via walkways and lifts.

The building has been subject to harsh criticism over the years. It is noted for its aesthetic repulsiveness, winning a public vote for the "Worst Building in Britain", which was organised by Channel 4 programme Demolition.[3] The "dismal" structure twice won a "Carbuncle Award", aimed at highlighting poor design and planning.[4] Writers including author Caro Ramsay have referenced the "Alien's Head",[1][2] a moniker given by locals to the top section of the building due to its side profile superficially resembling that of fictional alien E.T.[2]


Construction commenced in 1955 under the plans of architect Geoffrey Copcutt. After the building was started, it was believed to be an example of Utopian Engineering by architects; during construction, Logan Construction went bankrupt and left sparse detailed structural engineering plans. The building was widely anticipated and was visited by students to look into the design.

The penthouse apartments were found to have significant structural flaws in the main pillars and tenants were forced to move out. The penthouses were then converted into additional office space. By 1971 the town centre had the largest supermarket in Scotland and work on phase 2 had begun. The Corporation sought the building of a department store and this was completed in 1975 as phase 3. It was built for Woolworths with two levels of underground parking and was later sold to Asda. In the mid '70's the Golden Eagle Hotel was forced to close and later demolished. Phase 4 was completed in 1981. The town centre was purchased by a shopping management group in 1996 when Cumbernauld Development was wound up. Phase 3 was demolished in 1996 and in 2001 the rear outdoor section of phase 1 was demolished. The new Antonine shopping centre was built on these sites.

Modern times[edit]

The structure was very much a product of its time and many flaws within the design have been exposed. After only a few years, visitors and owners of businesses within the shopping centre noticed that the walkways were acting as wind tunnels and subsequently shops and shoppers stayed away. Other major faults appeared with the structure.

In the 1990s and up until 2001, parts of the Town Centre were demolished. The land on which was part of phase 1 remained derelict until 2006, when construction of the new Antonine Centre began, which is now worth £40 million and has 350,000 square feet (33,000 m2) of retail space.

The old building was featured on the Channel 4 show Demolition where it was voted as the worst building in Britain.

The Antonine Centre opened on Wednesday 6 June 2007 attracting thousands of shoppers for the opening. The Centre is expected to increase spending in the town by 84% (£175 million); the town centre is expecting a rise in sales of almost 166%. It was officially opened by Princess Anne in July 2007.


  1. ^ a b Caro Ramsay (6 December 2013). "What's it called? Cumbernauld!". Murder is Everywhere. Retrieved 9 February 2014. ...the centre's penthouses located within the 'alien's head' lie empty and derelict. 
  2. ^ a b c "What's it called? Carbuncle-nauld". Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser (Scottish and Universal Newspapers). 21 November 2001. [T]he centre is topped by a rather unsightly block...Cumbernauld residents dubbed [it] 'The Alien's Head', in homage to ET. 
  3. ^ "Demolition". Channel 4. 2005. Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  4. ^ Cumbernauld. BBC News. 25 May, 2012. Retrieved 6 July, 2013.

External links[edit]

55°56′49″N 3°59′26″W / 55.94683°N 3.99042°W / 55.94683; -3.99042