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Durham University challenges petition to save Dunelm House

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Durham University has defended its preferred option of flattening Architects’ Co-Partnership’s 1966 Dunelm House in response to a petition against the move

In December, the institution applied for a certificate of immunity for listing [COIL] for the building, which English Heritage described in 1995 as ‘the greatest contribution modern architecture has made to the enjoyment of an English medieval city’.

A petition to save the building from redevelopment has garnered 2,800 signatures, but the university’s deputy vice-chancellor, Antony Long, said the university was not backing down.

Although the university stressed that it had not yet made a final decision, the letter to the petition’s organiser sets out why it felt the building no longer had a viable future.

Long writes: ‘Before applying for the COIL, we also considered the practicality and usability of the building as well as the cost of refurbishment.

‘An independent study has found it would cost [around] £15 million to correct the long-term defects in the roof and concrete cover.’

Carrying out this repair work, he added, would dramatically change the look of the building.

‘Improving concrete cover, for example, would thicken surfaces and change proportional relationships, meaning that the building would not be true to the original design,’ he said.

The letter spells out that the layout was inflexible and that, after detailed discussion, no objections to the replacement of the building were made by the Students’ Union.

The deputy vice-chancellor emphasised that any replacement building for the site, which is in a conservation area and near to the World Heritage Site next to the Grade-I listed Kingsgate Bridge, would be ‘high quality and sympathetic to its surroundings’.

He revealed that the university was planning an international architectural competition to design the new building.

Dunelm House was completed in 1966 by the Architects’ Co-Partnership and engineered by Ove Arup.

A statement by petition organiser Save Dunelm House said: ‘Demolition is highly unsustainable, wasteful and very costly financially and environmentally.

‘It should always be the last move when all else fails and your building is literally falling down.

‘Dunelm House is not falling down – it was designed by one of the greatest engineers of the 20th century.’

Dunelm House

Dunelm House


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Readers' comments (1)

  • English Heritage's description in 1995 was absolutely correct, and the petition organiser's statement that it was 'designed by one of the greatest engineers of the 20th century' is also correct.
    Unfortunately the quality of intellect displayed by the Durham university authorities, abetted by the Culture Secretary, suggest that they could well be among the greatest philistines of the 21st century in this country.

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