Divisive concrete behemoth Preston Bus Station may yet be saved from its planned demolition. On the heels of a well co-ordinated campaign to save the brutalist monument, local businessman Simon Rigby has stepped in and offered to relieve the council of the building planning refurbish and operate the bus station himself.
Read more about the controversy and Rigby’s plan after the break…
Designed by BDP architects and built in 1969, Preston Bus Station is a hallmark of the civic minded brutalism that emerged in postwar Britain. Once the largest in the world, the eighty-gate bus station was designed to remind travelers of an airport arrivals hall.
However, the suitability of the huge deteriorating station has been called into question in the current age of declining bus-use. The building, which costs £300,000 a year to maintain, has fallen into disrepair, parts of it are damaged, its shops have long closed down due to vandalism, and its top floors have been shut-down to save money. Now, the building is scheduled to be demolished as part of the city center’s redevelopment plan.
Despite its poor state many residents of Preston still remain staunchly opposed to its demolition. There is an active campaign to save the station underway. The Financial Times noted that when it visited the bus station, it found almost all of those using it opposed to demolition, with a local resident stating: “You won’t find anyone who wants it knocked down”. A limited poll, ran by Lancashire Evening Post, found seventy percent of those who responded were in favor of keeping the station.
Local entrepreneur-turned-millionaire Simon Rigby has devised a plan offering to buy the bus station from the council for a nominal one-pound, in doing to he would take on the estimated £10m of liabilities and the responsibility for rejuvenating the bus station himself. “It is iconic,” he said, “It’s listed in a book of buildings that you must see – along with the Taj Mahal. Whatever replaces it won’t be. And Preston people have fond memories here.”
Rigby’s plan is open shops and art displays within the station, as well as to convert some of the building into business units, which will be leased to budding start-ups. More practical aspects include widening the 1,100 parking spaces – which are too narrow for modern cars – and installing automatic doors to battle drafts.
The plan, he admits, will be a philanthropic venture at first; it would see him investing £500,000 a year, for ten years, to refurbish the building, at the same time taking on any losses incurred. However, he believes, that given time and investment, the building could start to return a modest profit. The plans for the venture are being drawn up by Frank Whittle Partnership, who for their part, are confident in the stability of the structure.
The council have been considering Rigby’s offer, however according to the BBC, the they are set to decline due to the lack of guarantee that it will be used as bus station further down the line, which could potentially leave the area without a terminal. In their estimation it would cost at least £17million to bring the building up to scratch, while Lancashire County Council, who now operate the bus service, have already offered £8.3 million for the construction of a new station.
However, the fate of the building isn’t sealed yet and there has been a growing interest in the landmark structure. The World Monuments Fund has been vocal in its opposition to the demolition plans and the BBC recently filmed an episode of the ‘Culture Show’ there, while the national government has considered intervening to protect the building. RIBA Journal Editor Hugh Pearman notes that even though efforts to have the building listed as a protected structure failed in 2001 and 2010, a nearby building by the same architects was recently awarded added to the list, possibly heralding a change in attitude towards the brutalist icon.