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Dunelm House supporters launch crowdfunding campaign

Dunelm house webcrop
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Supporters of Dunelm House have launched a crowdfunding campaign to save Durham University’s Brutalist student union building

They hope to raise money to run events including a design charrette and build a case for the retention and reuse of Dunelm House, which is threatened with demolition.

Last month, culture secretary Karen Bradley stood firm on her decision a year ago not to list the building. She upheld her department’s support for Durham University’s application for a certificate of immunity from listing, despite a re-examination of the case.  

The campaign is led by the Save Dunelm House team and supported by the Twentieth Century Society and Newcastle University School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape. It will involve a design charrette early next year to test and develop alternative futures for the building.   

This will see teams of architects, students and engineers work on different ideas for the adaptation and refurbishment of the building.  

The crowdfunder project, open for pledges until 10 January, will help support an exhibition on the outcome of the charrette in Durham and Newcastle to increase public interest in the debate and the future of Dunelm House.

The campaigners are also planning a publication, Save Dunelm House, covering the building’s history and the charette’s proposals, available to those pledging particular amounts to the campaign. 

Project organiser James Perry, director of Newcastle-based practice Harper Perry, said: ‘The charrette aims to fill in the gaps between the desire of the students’ union to no longer be based in Dunelm House and Durham University’s decision to pursue demolition. There are a number of steps missing in reaching that conclusion, which we aim to challenge by drawing together the expertise of designers, historians and engineers.

‘Like all good buildings, Dunelm House is in dire need of long-term investment, not short-term, ad-hoc fixes and least of all demolition. I would say as an architect we need to be looking to reuse, recycle, extend or adapt our buildings rather than disposing of them because we don’t like the way they look.’ 

The five-level concrete building was constructed between 1964 and 1966 by the River Wear to the designs of Richard Raines of the Architects’ Co-Partnership, under the supervision of partner Michael Powers. It connects to Ove Arup’s Grade I-listed Kingsgate Bridge, built four years earlier.  

Twentieth Century Society senior conservation adviser Clare Price said: ‘We are of the opinion that the issues are ones of repair and that they can be addressed. Many buildings of this period, listed and unlisted, suffer from problems with concrete, often caused by lack of maintenance or inappropriate repairs. These issues have successfully been resolved in numerous cases.’

The Crowdfunder campaign has set a target of £7,250 and can be reached at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-dunelm-house-donate  

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Readers' comments (2)

  • joseph b fitzgerald

    It is not Brutal it is brilliant and sets the site so media give over !!

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  • Karen Bradley 'stood firm' - but when, I wonder, will she realise that she's on very shaky foundations? - or is she the type of politician who, having taken a controversial decision on something, would rather wait until hell freezes over before contemplating the possibility that they were wrong?

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