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Durham seeks listing immunity for Brutalist students' union


Durham University has applied for a Certificate of Immunity from Listing (COI) for its Brutalist students’ union building, designed by Architects’ Co-Partnership

The five-level concrete building, built between 1964 and 1966 by the river Wear, connects to Ove Arup’s Grade I-listed Kingsgate Bridge, which had opened two years earlier. Arup supervised the construction of Dunelm House acting as structural engineer and architectural advisor on the scheme. 

A spokeswoman said the university had applied to Historic England for a COI for Dunelm House ‘so that due consideration can be given to its future’.

She said any such consideration would include ‘full public consultation’. A spokeswoman for Historic England confirmed that it had received the COI and was currently considering the application.

Dunelm House, described in 2011 by the university’s vice-chancellor Chris Higgins as one of ’the finest examples of 20th-century architecture in the city’, famously features a bust of Arup on one of its outside walls. 

Architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner called the block ’Brutalist by tradition but not brutal to the landscape… the elements, though bold, [are] sensitively composed’.

Dunelm House

Dunelm House



Readers' comments (2)

  • What on earth are the university authorities thinking of?
    In the eyes of a student in the 1960s this was an inspired answer to the need for student's union facilities, responding brilliantly to a difficult site in a very high profile location.
    If the Vice Chancellor recognised its quality only five years ago, what's changed?
    If the student numbers have outgrown the building, does Durham University really think that they can fit more accommodation onto this site?
    If they consider an extension, this should respect the character and scale of ACP's building - and demolition should be out of the question.
    This could be make or break for the credibility of Historic England in its supposedly unbiased assessment of the quality of 20th century architecture.

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  • Durham University should be ashamed of itself. ACP's Students Union building and the neighbouring - and listed - Arup footbridge are the perfect complement to one another. Both reflect an era of confidence, creativity and experiment in education and design. It's difficult to escape the thought that the University lacks a recent record of distinguished architectural patronage, and can't recognize the real thing when it sees it.

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