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Breakthrough: Ed Vaizey lists Preston bus station

Architecture minister Ed Vaizey has unexpectedly given Preston’s threatened 1969 bus station a Grade II listing

Two previous bids in 2002 and 2009 to secure statutory heritage protection for the BDP-designed ‘neo-Corbusian’ concrete landmark both failed.

But Vaizey has accepted English Heritage’s latest recommendation to list, based on a ‘rigorously researched’ application drawn up by The Twentieth Century Society earlier this year (see below).

Describing the building as a ‘remarkably good example of integrated 1960s traffic planning’, Vaizey said: [The bus station] represents an important stage in the evolution of integrated design in England with architecture, interior design, engineering, quantity surveying, landscaping, graphic and typographic design working to a common goal.

‘The fitting out of the building survives well with original features such as floor finishes, signage and barriers making an important contribution to its aesthetic impact.’

He added: ‘I am very happy to end the uncertainty around the future of this building and accept the advice of English Heritage and give it the extra protection from demolition or redevelopment that listing provides.’

However, it still remains unclear exactly how the move will impact on Preston City Council’s controversial decision in December 2012 to bulldoze the Brutalist icon, rather than spend £23 million on its refurbishment (AJ 18.12.12).

The threat of demolition has been hanging over the bus station, voted BDP’s second best building in the practice’s history in a recent poll, for nearly a decade.

The landmark was due to be pulled down to make way for the £700 million, Lend Lease-backed Tithebarn shopping scheme. However, that development collapsed in 2011 and, despite calls from the likes of Richard Rogers to save the bus station from demolition ( AJ 31.05.13), its fate has remained in doubt.

A ‘very pleased’ Eddy Rhead from the Manchester Modernist Society said: ‘I’d almost given up hope in the face of such negativity and manoeuvring from Preston City Council and had just presumed it was doomed.

‘Kudos must go to Vaizey for making such an enlightened decision’

‘However it is always darkest before the dawn and kudos must go to Ed Vaizey for making such an enlightened decision. I fear this is not the end of the story though and while the listing is welcome, we must all continue to push for a long term, sustainable plan for the buildings future.’ 

Commenting on the decision, councillor Peter Rankin, leader of Preston City Council, said: ‘Obviously it’s not the outcome we were hoping for. We’ve always said the bus station is too big, provides relatively poor facilities for bus passengers and costs Preston taxpayers over £300,000 a year to maintain.

‘We will have to take some time now to consider the listing decision and the options for moving forward.

‘In particular, we need to look at costs and the impact on budgets and how it affects Preston taxpayers. We will work closely with Lancashire County Council as transport authority to consider the next steps.’

Other comments:

Catherine Croft of the Twentieth Century Society said: ‘Its strong presence and architectural impact define the City: listing will at last give Preston Bus Station a measure of protection befitting it as an iconic structure of great architectural merit. This is Preston’s opportunity to consider how the station can be imaginatively refurbished and re-used for the benefit of future generations. Proposals to achieve this have already been put to Preston City Council and now these can be considered in the light of the architectural significance of this superb structure.’

David Cash, BDP’s chairman said: ‘This is excellent news. The building is a heroic structure of its era, and is well worthy of its listed status. The focus now must be to ensure adequate funding is secured to bring the building back into a good state of repair, and to enable the building to play a key role in the regeneration of Preston.’

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listed September 2013

Previous story (AJ 13.01.2013): New bid to list Preston’s Brutalist bus station

The Twentieth Century Society has made a fresh bid to list Preston’s 1969 bus station which is again threatened with demolition

The organisation has submitted a new, ‘rigorously researched’ application to English Heritage in a bid to win listed status for the ‘neo-Corbusian’ concrete BDP bus station.

The move follows Preston City Council’s controversial decision last month to bulldoze the Brutalist icon rather than spend £23 million on its refurbishment (AJ 18.12.2012).

English Heritage has twice recommended that the bus station, which has been under threat for more than 12 years, be given listed status in 2000 and 2009.

On both occasions the applications were turned down by the Secretary of State (see below).

Fresh hopes were raised for the station’s survival after the collapse of the £700 million, Lend Lease-backed Tithebarn shopping scheme in 2011. But the local authorities latest vote has provoked the Twentieth Century Society to take action to protect the ‘internationally important’ structure.

Society director Catherine Croft said: ‘This new rigorously researched listing application is a fresh opportunity for the City Council and other interested parties to re-assess the importance of this structure and to recognise its value as a legacy for the future of the City.’

‘We hope that they may reconsider their position and support listing. An imaginative refurbishment scheme could still secure the future of this architectural masterpiece.’

Comment: World Monuments Fund (WMF)executive vice president and chief operating officer Lisa Ackerman

‘In both the United States and the UK, there was a tremendous wave of adventurous public buildings in the 1960s and 1970s that illustrated the enthusiasm of communities to be seen as bold and forward looking.’

‘Today many of these buildings are being demolished despite their potential to continue to be well suited for their intended purpose or adapted to new uses. Preston Bus Station is an iconic structure and its distinctive silhouette would be sorely missed.

‘WMF applauds the efforts of those working to find a viable solution for maintaining the building.’

Previous story (AJ 29.01.2010): Hodge refuses to list Preston’s Brutalist bus station

Architecture Minister Margaret Hodge has again gone against English Heritage (EH) advice and turned down a second bid to list Preston’s 1969 bus station

Having rejected calls to give heritage protection status to John Madin’s 1970s brutalist Birmingham library last in November, the minister has now decided that the impressive, ‘neo-Corbusian’ concrete BDP bus station does not merit a Grade II listing. On both occasions EH had recommended the buildings for listing, hailing them as ‘nationally important’.

Hodge, who is known for her ambivalence towards post-war architecture said ‘neither the design of the building nor the methods used in its construction have the qualities of innovative planning or structural interest.’

She added: ‘[There] are significant aspects of Preston Central Bus Station and Car Park that have never functioned or operated as intended.’

The rejection will be welcomed by the team behind the £650 million retail-led Tithebarn town centre regeneration project, which ironically is also designed by BDP. The 41-year-old bus station is due to be demolished and replaced by a John Lewis department store - although the progress of the project is unclear following developer Grosvenor’s departure from the scheme last year.

Understandably EH is ‘disappointed’ by the decision. A spokesman said: ‘[At the time of its opening in October 1969] it was the world’s largest bus station. Inspired by Le Corbusier with its dramatic curved sculptural effects, it is seen as a successful and bold example of a 1960s `megastructure’ that combines several functions.

‘[Listing] is not a preservation order, simply a mark of special interest.. [and] in this case listing would have allowed the forthcoming public inquiry into the Tithebarn development to explore the benefits or otherwise of retaining the bus station in whole or in part.’

Eddy Rhead of the Manchester Modernist Society added: ‘This decision certainly signals the end of any hope that the bus station could be saved.

‘Only a complete rethink by Preston City Council of the whole Tithebarn development, which is highly unlikely, will save it now.’

Preston Bus Garage (BDP 1969) - refused listing

Preston Bus Garage (BDP 1969) - refused listing

Postscript

A comment from former BDP chair Richard Saxon

‘This opinion does not surprise me. The parking building has great presence but the bus station element was never a success and one would not do it that way today. The garage, with its T beams morphing into upturned balustrades, captures influences from the New Haven garage by Paul Rudolph to neo-Corbusian Japanese museum cornices of the early 60s.

‘Its scale and panache are rare in UK work of the period. One can imaging keeping the garage and building new things below it, but if it is all to go I hope it is well documented beforehand.’

Previous story (08.06.07): Preston’s bus station wins reprieve from the wrecking ball

The ongoing saga surrounding Preston’s doomed Brutalist 1970s bus station has taken yet another twist after it emerged the building has been given a six-year reprieve.

The unusual concrete bus interchange was due to be flattened later this year as part of BDP’s £650 million retail-led Tithebarn town centre regeneration project.

However, it has emerged that the developer behind the project, Grosvenor, will not crack on with its Preston plans until it has finished work on its massive Paradise Street scheme in Liverpool.

This will mean the bulldozers will not move until at least 2009 and it is understood the bus station - which was originally designed by BDP - will be spared demolition until a new facility is complete, probably in 2013.

Opposition to the proposed flattening of the bus garage has come from a number of sources, including an 84-year-old former Desert Rat soldier who vowed to lie in front of the bulldozers to save the building (AJ 18.11.05).

The news that the station will be temporarily spared has been met with a mixed reaction from the Twentieth Century Society.

Secretary to the society’s North West Group, Eddy Rhead, said: ‘The loss of this iconic building is very regrettable but now seemingly inevitable.

‘Making matters worse, however, are the shifting deadlines, almost giving a false sense of hope that the building could be saved. It is very frustrating to see a building being demolished that is generally well liked, well used and still fit for purpose, and that no way can be found to incorporate it into the new developments.’

He added: ‘The only advantage of the short-term reprieve is that perhaps some sense will prevail and Grosvenor and Preston Council realise what an asset the bus station is, both practically and architecturally, and retain it.’

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