Why we should save Preston Bus Station (Part One)
This is a guest post by the Preston Bus Station blog. PART 1: Preston Bus Station is as important to Preston as any of the old Victorian mills that are still standing in the city today however, like those mills, it must find a new purpose if it is to stay relevant and avoid the dynamite of developers.
Preston Bus Station – ground breaking, historic, iconic.
Preston Bus Station was one of the last large scale public funded buildings in the city centre. Its ambition is reflected in the scale of the building – 1169 parking spaces, over 80 bus bays, 3 subways, 1 walkway direct from the car park and into the Guild Hall & Charter theatre and recently added (half heartedly and with all the style of Jeremy Clarkson) ground level access.
It’s often said that the bus station is one of the few buildings that outsiders recognise as belonging to the city, yet few realise how much of the building’s history actually belongs to the city. The building was designed by Keith Ingham (1932-1995) of Building Design Partnership (BDP), a Lancashire born architect working for a now international firm that itself was founded in Preston only 8 years prior to the opening of the bus station in 1969.
BDP are currently celebrating their 50th anniversary with a series of events including exhbitions, a book entitled 61\11 Continuous Collective and an online initiative to find the public’s favourite building from their portfolio. The contest is wide ranging including projects from the company’s early days and right up to the present day.
Aside from the exterior appearance of the bus station there were other ground breaking concepts introduced including a unified approach to graphic design. The signs throughout the bus station are both uniform and clear and they represent an important evolution in this field. Next time you’re in the bus station take the time to look around at the signs and witness the simplicity of the original signage next to the more contemporary additions that have been thrown up without any regard for maintaining the style of the building. The clarity of the signposts and information boards that guide you through any modern airport were something that had rarely been seen out of that environment until they were transported to the bus station.
The bus station has its detractors and their opinions are often justified, as this publicly owned facility has been blighted my mismanagement and underfunding. The current ground level access is a blessed alternative to the subways which previously forced pedestrians underground, yet its execution is so unsightly as to be aesthetically criminal. The internals of the building are tired and in need of a good clean and modernisation, though this would be true of any 40 year old building that has been so poorly maintained. The staff that work there have done a fantastic job when faced with a relentless uphill struggle.
Once you realise that these issues are cosmetic in nature you are left with an important public facility housed in an iconic building that is ripe for partial redevelopment and wholescale refurbishment; a building that is iconic, instantly recognisable and unique to Preston and whose best days are hopefully yet to come.
To vote in BDP’s contest to find their favourite building please visit their site and remember that your vote will carry more weight if you chose to register on their site.
Next week – Part 2: Is Preston Bus Station in the wrong place? Is keeping the bus station an exercise in vanity that the city can ill afford?