Speaking of Retro, Check Out the Preston Bus Station
While yes, I am crazy, but there was a special reason – the Preston Bus Station is not exactly just any old bus station, and my interest in it ironically has nothing to do with buses!
It is one of the most striking examples around of Brutalist architecture, dating to 1969. If you don’t know, Brutalism is a particular harsh (brutal, shall we say?) version of Modernism, typically carried out with sharp geometry and loads of concrete. Wikipedia as always provides some good info, and interesting to see that its Brutalist Architecture page mentions some familiar characters – the Trellick Tower which we immortalized last year as the ugliest building in London, the Washington Metro, and three buildings at my alma mater (the law school, Forbes Quad – sorry, called Posvar Hall now, and my own School of Information Sciences building).
The Preston Bus Station, which with space for 40 buses on each side of the building is claimed as the second largest bus station in Europe, has gotten some wider attention because it is in danger – for more than 10 years now it has been on the chopping block. This has raised some very interesting issues – on the one hand, it is an amazingly awful (hell, brutal – see pictures below) structure that certainly doesn’t seem “fit for purpose” anymore, it if ever was. On the other hand, however, it is a landmark; the people of Preston have actually voted it as their favorite building, and it really captures the architecture and style of the time period.
Britain has a preservation movement that is even stronger than the US, but not surprisingly it is mostly focused on much older stuff. What timeframe is appropriate for something to become historic? Certainly lots of recent-past structures are demolished without thought, and that has happened throughout history – but after some period of time the thinking changes and those things that were viewed as so awful become quaint or retro or whatever.
The plan has been to knock it down and build a new city-center shopping complex; there have been several petitions to grant it landmark (known as “listed” here) status, all rejected. The fight continues, and the economic slowdown has perhaps lessened the demand for the new shopping center. Advocates have quite a nice website with a petition and a lot of other information about the building at http://www.prestonbusstation.co.uk.
So, what do you think – should this building be preserved? Check out the rest of the pictures below to see the retro interiors!
Overall, it was well worth our 15-min stop to see this potential landmark that is listed on the World Monument Fund’s “endangered monuments” list. I’m certainly in favor of saving it, but I have to admit I’m not exactly sure how to do it. It doesn’t seem to be too popular or useful as a bus station, and conversion to something else would quite possibly ruin it. In a bigger world city it could be a cool museum of brutalism perhaps, but I’m not sure that Preston can sustain that.