Preston Bus Station - Brutalist Masterpiece

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Lauded as a key example of ‘Brutalism’, Preston Bust Station was recently placed on a monuments ‘at risk’ list by the World Monuments Fund, and later given a grade II listing. 

With this knowledge in mind I explored the bus station on a dull autumnal morning, and inspired by what I encountered, returned the day after, with the sun behind my back, full of wonder at such a controversial piece of architecture.

There are a number of reasons why the building works for me. In its form and detail it references (intended or not) other architectural traditions and types.

At certain angles there is something of the Jacobean in the ‘gadrooned’ balustrade, which is encompassing and as celebratory as an Art Deco frontage. Also, its bold sculpted form and structure reminds me of the Albert River Wall at Liverpool docks by Jesse Hartley.

And yet its real success lies in its use.

How many buildings can claim to have given such a loyal account of its originators intentions for over 40 years?

The bus station is poetry in motion. It lights up when in use. A sort of urban ballet, with the combustion engine as the main protagonist, and the fluted facade as a backdrop.

Gain a vantage point that gives you a little height and watch the building come to life as the entry and exit flyovers circumduct private vehicles over public buses.

In part, so many of these concrete structures are criticised, because they hold an air of redundancy with dripping stalactites and urinal staircases.

During my visit the public spaces were streaming with light and teaming with people.

For me this building (lyrical in form and far from brutal to its occupants) is a success, because it has real tradition, real buzz and real buses.

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