The Preston Bus Station is a strong example of Brutalism architecture in Uk. Regardless the design by Keith Ingham, Partner of the british firm BDP, with Ove Arup and Partners as project team structure, it is still not recognized as historical heritage. The station, being actually under used, is in fact at risk of demolition. To avoid this , a movement called Gate81 ( name inspired by the 80 existing gates of the station) aims to bring global attention to the building in order to preserve it.
Different activities have been promoted from Gate81; already two workshops had brought together professionals and researchers with the purpose of finding possible solutions and renovations.
I personally attended to the second workshop, held in the BDP Manchester Office on the 28th of June 2013. An introductory speech was given by Sally Stone, the organizer of Gate81, and David Cash, BDP’s Chairman, whose remarked the importance of the station as symbol of Preston and the brutalism heritage in U.K.
Afterwards, the UCLAN Professor Kevin Rhowbotham reflected on the actual use and position of the station respect to the city. Every design project is nowadays part of a urban reality, constructed by thousands of connections. This net can be defined as a field, which is shaped by the buildings themselves (the objects in the field). All the city space makes sense when the buildings are designed to be part of the field: objects whose do not float in the space, but which give a purpose to the surrounding.
With this background, it appears clearly how the Preston Bus Station is disconnected by the city field. Professor Rhowbotham also made a comparison with the temple St Parking Garage designed by Paul Rudolph , which inspired the design of the Bus Station. The brutalism parking garage had in fact a better connection with the urban tissue and it does not stand out from its context: as result the building it not disconnected from the existing and it is still integrated with the life of the city.
The question asked during the charrette was only one: how to save Preston Bus Station?
The answers given by students, professionals and researchers were many, everyone containing a challenge or a specific theme.
My team proposal, a collaboration with Gaia Zamburini (PhD Salford University) and Evangelina Liodaki (PhD Manchester University) , started from two strong ideas:
– Reconnect the station to the city context;
– Rethink the functions inside the building, actually under used as Bus Station only.
The first hypothesis was to divide the bus station in two: the south part would continue to be used as station and its external ground to converge all the car/bus traffic. The part of the building facing North is going to host the new functions. The division of the building would continue in all the upper floors, leaving untouched the existing car park above the station. The two sides of the building are connected, but their functions separated by a filter core which can be used for toilets/services. New light/air towers can be added to improve the internal micro-climate.
The building is going to be reconnected with the surrounding thanks to additional external volumes. These can be used to mark points such as gates and the filter core/entrance, respecting and highlighting the modular grind structure. At the same time they will give a new value to the façade, without touching the beautiful concrete slides. An idea would be to relocate on the ground floor the city market, which are going to be moved soon from their original location. The back garden could be used to grow vegetables by the same citizens, since the growing demands of city garden in Preston.
If you would like to see the proposals from the other groups, I invite you to open the following link and read Sally Stone article: http://www.msa.mmu.ac.uk/continuity/.
For further information and new activities about the Preston Bus Station please go to the Gate 81 website http://gate81.tumblr.com/.
Hope you had enjoy reading this entry as I did by participating to the workshop!