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Revisiting Utopia: Bus Station debate reignites at arts event

Posted on - 12th July, 2012 - 8:00am | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Events, Opinion

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Arts group In Certain Places hosted a day-long symposium looking at issues around Preston’s controversial bus station and the future of the city centre in general.

The event began at UCLan’s Darwin lecture theatre with a short welcome and introduction from In Certain Place’s Charles Quick.

Guest speakers for the morning session were writer and journalist Owen Hatherley and Leeds based architect Irena Bauman. They spoke at length about the possibilities and pitfalls of reinventing modernist architecture for the twenty first century. Both speakers answered questions from the audience dealing with local and national issues around the role of modernist architecture and its place in today’s society.

Following a lunch break, the group were taken on a bus trip through the city centre to the contentious sixties bus station. During a guided tour of the building, Charles Quick provided a running commentary full of facts and figures about the brutalist landmark. The bus station’s regular clientele seemed a little bemused by the sizable group of urban sightseers studying every architectural detail!

After a short walk to the former Post Office building on the Market Square, participants were invited to join in with a panel discussion chaired by Lancashire County Councillor Kevin Ellard. Joining him on the panel were Owen Hatherley and Irena Bauman, Councillor Tom Burns from Preston City Council and Christina Malathouni from The Twentieth Century Society.

Much of the discussion centred on the bus station’s future and how the building could be best remodelled to improve its image and make it fit for today’s requirements. Numerous suggestions from the audience included pedestrianising the Tithebarn bus apron and halving the number of bus bays, to installing roof gardens and relocating the indoor market to the site. Everybody present seemed to agree that, if the bus station is to remain, we need to think about and agree on its future development.

The day’s proceedings were ended with a preview of an exhibition of artworks inspired by Preston bus station and local modernist architecture. The day’s events certainly fuelled some discussion, and the city’s most controversial building continues to be the subject of much heated deliberation. Love it or loathe it, the brutalist icon’s future is an issue that looms large on the Preston skyline and the debate over its eventual survival or demise is set to rumble on.

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