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.’
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 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.’