Preston Bus Station
Reaching a ripe old age
A fabulous slice of Lancashire brutalism. Once under threat, today Grade II listed. Preston Bus Station is now recognised and protected as an icon of 1960s architecture. Its important place in the history books sealed.
The bus station’s story is underpinned by the mid-60s determination by Government to expand motorway networks and develop major public transport hubs. The very thing that heralded the creation of Preston Bus Station also contributed to its demise as the use of public transport gave way to private transport – owning a car moved swiftly from luxury to everyday necessity.
The designers, Keith Ingram and Charles Wilson of Building Design Partnership (BDP) with EH Stazicker and Ove Arup had dreamed big, it was huge. The bus station was able to provide cover for 80 double-decker buses, which could be parked comfortably in rows forty vehicles wide as well as an 1100 place car-park. In 1969 it was the largest bus station in Western Europe.
Gradually the once optimistic project lurched into an at-risk status. Demolition was threatened and the bus station needed to be listed to protect it. There had been a grassroots local campaign in 2ooo, when developers had spotted the site’s potential, now in 2012 when another plan emerged to make a shopping mall, conservationists stepped up their campaign.
In 2012 the C20 Society nomination of British Brutalism to be added as a genre on the World Monuments Fund 2012 Watch List, was accepted. Several examples had been given by illustration, alongside the South Bank Centre and Birmingham Central Library was Preston Bus Station. Backed by the Twentieth Century Society and an almighty fight, the bus station was given a reprieve. The case study makes interesting reading. Preston City Council recognised that it was beyond its financial capabilities to carry out the necessary renovation. The complex needed a plan to bring the bus station back to the standard it deserved. A transaction took place between Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council allowed LCC to get stuck in and re-imagine the space, whilst retaining its original use, as a bus station.
The city of Preston is in a celebratory mood. Harris Museum has an exhibition called Beautiful and Brutal, 50 Years in the life of Preston Bus Station, timed to coincide with its big birthday. The University of Central Lancashire has commissioned a group of artists who will create their visions of the iconic Central Lancashire landmark.
Today you can celebrate Preston Bus Station with your own copy of a limited edition Zine by British documentary photographers, Cafe Royal.
Local Museum on the Must Visit List:
Harris Museum, Market Square, Preston PR1 2PP