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Preston Bus Station: Ethics not aesthetics March 4, 2013

Posted by jennibarrett in Uncategorized.
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It is, by now, a widely accepted premise that Preston Bus Station is a building of architectural significance (see current article in RIBA Journal).  The consensus on its significance is given further weight by the support given by Angela Brady PRIBA and the RIBA President Elect, Stephen Hodder and the recommendations of the 20th Century Society.  Whether it is indeed aesthetically beautiful or not is a separate and more philosophical discussion – possibly one for a future post.
But its beauty and architectural significance is only one facet of the issue.
There’s the question of value.   What is it that we value in our city and how do we assess this?

Do we truly value our buildings of architectural significance, our contemporary architectural heritage?  Do we value them enough to prioritise their conservation more highly than the crude outcome of a profit and loss calculation?
Are we comfortable with this commodification of our heritage?

There are many fabulous buildings in Preston.  Let’s look at another.  This building was built in a style which caused much consternation at the time of its construction.  It was built in a Gothic Revival style.  The term ‘gothic,’  originally described a building that was crude, barbaric – ‘brutal.’  Despite the architectural adjective being a term of derision, it eventually  took its place in our stylistic vocabulary.
This Gothic building, despite being disliked by some, was originally built to signify city confidence and social progress.  But now, it’s going to cost over  £1million to renovate and it doesn’t even produce any revenue.
The building I’m referring to is the Grade 1 Listed St. Walburge’s Church, less than a mile from Preston Bus Station.  Its story echoes the plight of the ‘Brutalist’ bus station, another monument described by an architectural adjective that incorrectly infers something fearful and unsympathetic.  I’ve never never met anyone who would dare to suggest getting rid of the bus station’s gothic neighbour & those trusted with its care seek creative approaches to investment and widely promote its renovation to its former glory.  It’s value that transcends  any fiscal analysis and this is confirmed by those who use it as well as those who admire it from afar.

https://i0.wp.com/blogpreston.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/MEL3941-Edit1-630x460.jpg

Source:  Paul Melling/Blog Preston

 

Urban value also embraces the spaces between the buildings.  Do we value our public spaces, our streetlife?  Preston Bus Station  is in public ownership; is used by the public and a unique and people-centric activity happens within it (however socially unacceptable this can sometimes be!).  In a sense, then, it’s not a building at all.  It’s a public space.  It’s a street that happens to have a structure built around it.
If we were debating whether to build on one of Preston’s key public spaces – the Market Square or Miller Park  – spaces which require expensive maintenance; are unlikely to generate much in the way of revenue, yet significant in Preston’s urban life, it would be acknowledged that something is being taken away from the people of Preston – certainly, not without launching some kind of competition to see how the spaces could be improved or to discover a more creative, forward thinking business model.

But this is what’s proposed here.  One of the main ‘streets’ in Preston, one which is iconic, renowned, busy and vibrant is proposed to be condensed, converted and downgraded to something that will be, well,  catastrophically ordinary.

So, back to the subject of value.  To use the procurement  terminology, is it ‘best value’ to remove something that is perceived to be successful in every other way, except monetarily,  without measuring the value of its less tangible assets via full transparent discussion or meaningful consultation with those who use it, or appreciate it from further afield?  Is that even ethical?  And until a full, collaborative, rigorous, creative and forward thinking decision making process has been seen through – and Gate 81 is a brilliant example of that – then ethically speaking, a decision can’t be made.

https://i1.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41niCnvnQOL._SL500_SS500_.jpg

Source:  Amazon

 

Brutalism refers not to the imposing form of this style of building, but rather to the resulting aesthetic  linked to a  béton brut, a particular way of using and finishing raw concrete  which was adopted by a group of architects from a particular social and ethical standpoint, who used the béton brut as tool for their structural expressionism.   And  then the term also kind of stuck, thanks primarily to the publication of Reyner Banham’s 1966 book, “The New Brutalism:  Ethic or Aesthetic?”   Brutalism is an architectural style from recent history.  We may not like it now, but perhaps we will miss it in the future.

The debate about the future:death of Preston Bus Station, however,  is not a question of whether the building  is subjectively beautiful or not, but whether we truly value Preston’s future heritage and  how we transparently assess this without getting hung up on its financial commoditisation.  In that sense, this is a replay of 1966 (“they think it’s all over?”).  No, not football.  I’m referring again to Reyner Banham’s significant work.  This decision is a one of ethics, not aesthetics.

Brutal Ethics (Part 3): Commuting the consequences February 26, 2013

Posted by jennibarrett in Uncategorized.
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Following on from the last post (Brutal Ethics Part 2:  Duty or Demolition?), the third group offered their views based on a utilitarian system of ethics – the end justifies the means or the act that satisfies the most people (further explanation of this…here). Here’s the 3rd and final transcript…

 

“I’m going with keeping the bus station because a lot of people use it.  If they were to knock it down and make a smaller one, it would be hard for people who use it day in and day out for going to different locations in Preston.  There’s not one bus route is there, there’s lots of different bus routes.  And thinking about shops in the bus station too.  There’s a lot of shops like newsagents, cafes – thinking about their money that they make to live, basically.  If it was knocked down, they’d have to relocate elsewhere and it will be expensive for them to relocate and it might not be the same income that they have at the moment.

When you look this bus station, the amount of people coming in and 56,000 or however many a week – it’s a lot.  I think all the petitions they’ve had with the local people they’ve had quite a lot of people coming back and saying they want to keep the bus station.  It has communal value.  If people want to keep it and it’s still being used, then I don’t see any reason why they should demolish it.

Before I start, I’m going to say that my views are different to my group’s.  Everyone looks at consequences in different ways.  My argument is based on three things –  the local residents.  Based on the petitions themselves, out of 114,000 population of Preston, only 1,400 people have actually signed the petition, which shows that not that many people actually care about it.  Looking at commuters,  56,000 people every day go in and out of the bus station, so the location of the actual bus station is a vital part of the city centre.  1,500 buses daily go in and out so that’s a good link between London and Scotland.  The last point is businesses.  The St. John’s Centre and the Guild Centre rely on comuters going in and out.  Theres’ an internal link with the bus station so these businesses rely on commuters.  SO, my proposal is to demolish the bus station but build a new bus station, a smaller one.  Basically, it costs to much to refurb the existing bus station, meaning that tax would go up 24% in Preston.  The new bus station would be a bus station with modern facilities, good standards.  IT basically would stand out in the north west to Manchester and Liverpool.  They’re modern cities.  We need to compete with these cities.  SO, my main argument is to help people to use bsuses.  When people see that it’s a modern facility they’ll want to use buses and come into the city centre,

They don’t want modern.  It’s been voted by the Preston people as the most popular building.  The designer, the materials used… they knew this was going to happen, that they’d want to knock it down.  I think they’ve got something against the building.  And the guy knew that in the future because of the design, he’s used materials that are built to last.  Pirelli designed the floor.  The façade, the tilings, they’re the same people who did the tiling on Harrods.  So that’s a big statement.

 

Source:  William Routledge

 

What you’re saying is a lot of people care, but out of 114,000 people, only 1,400 have signed the petition.  ON facts, that doesn’t show that many people actually care.

But if you’re going to think about the consequences, and you’re talking about local businesses doing better, then if you think about the time it takes to knock it down and relocate – and it’s probably going to have higher rates because it’s a new modern building, then their rents are going to go up.  In the meantime, they’re going to have nowhere to trade, so what’s going to happen to them?  What are the consequences for those businesses that you want to protect and preserve and help while all this work is going on?  What happens to them?

You’re looking at it from a short term point of view.

But if the businesses have gone under and they’re not their to trade, then there’s no long term.

But you’ve got to look at the business.  If you can say that you can protect the future of the brand.

Can you guarantee that?

Obviously, the bus station’s going to have to work with the businesses internally.

Does that make financial sense?

I think it does.  It protects the Guild Centre as well as the St. John’s Centre.

You said the number of people that signed the petition, do you not think those figures are reflected by the fact that the petition is not transparent.  We should have a leaflet through our doors as part of the community consultation which says ‘are you for or against the demolition of the bus station

You could argue that no-one has voted to knock it down. 

If you’re really bothered about something, you go out and you seek to make a change. 

How many of the 114,000 people actually know that it’s going to be demolished, though?

That’s why they’re not bothered.  If they were, they’d look into it, they’d look into  the community ,, the city centre.  They’d look into theings,.  The facts don’t reflect what’s there.

But someone form an architectural background had to ask this morning why its architecturally valuable and if we have to ask that, then Joe Bloggs who has never thought about architecture in his life they haven’t been informed and it hasn’t been explained to them why its’ architecturalyy valuable then you can’t expect them to want to keep it.

I don’t think that’s true.  All the information to date, hardly any of them talked about the architectural qualities really so far, which is quite a good thing because it’s still been voted the favourite so there’s a lot of facts and figures and arguments for saving it regardless of whether you like it or don’t like it.

This was actually the second most famous building that he did, the architect.

That’s internationally, as well.

He’s got backing from the RIBA president.  RIBA want to spot list it.

It means that they list it temporarily while they investigate it.  It means that it will prevent any demolition basically.

Because this has been going on for 10 years, saying they want to knock it down – I think people have got used to the fact that they’re just going to come around every year and say, let’s knock it down.  If this never happened before and in December, they’d said knock it down, I think there would have been more of a reaction from people.  It’s been going on for such a long time.

If it’s been going on for so long, then more people should know about it.

People are saying we don’t think it’s going to happen so why get involved.

It ‘s a positive for Preston.  Look at the attention it’s getting from all over the UK.

When you demolish it, will you have any attention?

Yeah, this is iconic

I think it should be retained and I think the Council should listen to the RIBA who are suggesting to carry out a competition to redesign and adapt the current building to the needs of the town and they said they will support that somehow so we might end up with lower figures – it depends on the design and what sort of design architect’s will propose.  But why do believe in these costs?

They’re the figures we’ve been given.  We can’t go to the bus station and get a pen and paper out and start putting a list of costings together.  They’ve obviously paid someone to do it and we have to go along with someone’s job.   They’ve given us a figure to go off, now.  We either go off that or we don’t.

Yes, those figures have been given but until you know what that money’s actually getting for you and what that’s costing – is it a scheme to replace the bus station or is it a bus station with the same – so until you know what you’re getting and you know they can guarantee that money’s available so you’re not left with a pile of rubble.

Has there been an options appraisal where they look at the 3 scenarios – demolish, refurbish, retain?  And looked at the comparative costs?  Have we got that information?

The information I’ve obtained is that for approximately £10 million, they can build a new bus station in the same plot with 60 bus bays instead of the 80 that they have right now and they’ll have 350 car parking spaces.

What have they got now?

They’ve got 1,100.  But these 350 car parking spaces are based on what gets used right now.  That’s what they’ve based it on.  It’s not that they’ve just brought it down to 350.  They’re going off what gets used on a daily basis.

Do you not feel that’s because in Preston town centre, there’s about 8 car parking places that you can go to within half a mile?  Do you not think it would be a better idea to keep the bus station which we’re quite proud of in Preston and get rid of one of the little rubbish ones like on top of the market? It’s not exactly far to get from the market to the bus station and it’s drawing more attention to there because that’s used by  about 150 people every day.

I think we need to compete with other cities in the north west.  That’s why I think this approach of going towards a new modern bus station will help bring people into Preston.  If someone was to come into Preston Bus Station, they wouldn’t want to come back, right now.  And that’s just the way it is.

Don’t send them inside.  Make them stand outside where it’s elegant looking!

If people from Manchester see that we have a modern facility, they’ll want to come.

Manchester doesn’t have a good bus station.  Chorlton Street bus station is a lot worse than Preston bus station.

That’s what I mean, though.  It’ll bring people towards us.

But if we go back to the architectural point, we have an iconic piece of architecture there.  You’ve got some figures which are for putting a new, smaller bus station, which is not going to be costed as the highest quality building.  If you want to get something, whether you like it or not, that’s  perceived as high quality and as iconic, that’s going to have as much impact as that, then you’re going to have to spend the money.

If the investment comes in for this new proposal…

But that proposal is never going to match the quality of the bus station.

But if this investment comes in, it will bring other investments within the city centre as well.  People start seeing that as an economic factor.  Look, people are putting money into Preston.

They can do that without knocking it down.

It’ll start a sense of investment in the city centre.  Right now, no-one wants to invest because the Tithebarn project has been scrapped.  No-one wants to invest right now.

But what’s the difference between investing £10million in a new bus station and investing £10million in making this even better?

Figures show that it’s going to cost them £23million to refurb the current building.  If you can build a new bus station for £10million, you’re saving £18million on paper.

How much to demolish it?

£28million.

Your figures don’t stack up and I think £10million will just get you a bog standard bus station.  It won’t be iconic and it’ll be the same as all the other rubbish ones around Preston.  If you want something iconic, which you’re talking about, you’re going to have to spend more than £10million.

Artist's impression new bus station

Image of replacement bus station proposal

Source:  Preston Bus Station Replacement Facility:  Options Report (Prepared by Jacobs, June 2012)

 

5 minutes ago, with regard to the car parking, you said that we only need 300 odd spaces because that’s all that’s being used.  But there’s loads of empty shops.  You say  you want to encourage people but you’re reducing the amount of parking.  You need those extra spaces to expand.  You wouldn’t build the Trafford Centre and put 4 car parking spaces in would you?  You wouldn’t reduce the car parking.

There’s spaces in and around Preston.  This bus station, the 350 spaces is based on 10 million.  Obviously, the costing will go up if they want more spaces.

That’s undermining your scheme.

Why not have people coming in to use the empty retail units instead of knocking it down?  That would improve the area around it.

I think there should be more collaboration with the people of Preston.  Now, the Council are going off and doing what they want to do and deciding.  If they had that relationship with the people of Preston, they’d probably find a solution that would suit both parties.  At the moment, it’s just the Council.  And we’re not knocking it down, we’re keeping it.

Apart from me!

So where do you stand?  Need I ask?  I can see from the body language.  Are there any other questions?

Yeah, you said earlier that you want Preston to compete with Manchester and Liverpool.  How is it going to do that in terms of the local economy?  When you look at these other cities, they’re much larger in area, in their markets, so how can you compare Preston to a city like that?  We’ve only got one university here, for example.  Everywhere else has two.  We can’t compete with cities like that.  Even from an architectural point of view, will people actually come to Preston to look at the bus station?  I’m from London and I never saw the bus station until I actually went walkabouts.  All I got told about Preston was the churches.  How will we compete with major cities like that?

Every city started from scratch.  We might be 10 or 15 years behind Manchester, Liverpool, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t.  We’re not the biggest of towns but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a statement within the north west.  That’s the point that I’m trying to make.

It’s not just the 10 or 15 years, when you compare Preston with London, it’s not comparable.

The only way to start this movement upwards is to start now.  Improve it now.  That’s what I’m trying to say.

But is getting rid of Preston’s heritage saying the right thing about Preston.  That’s a step backwards.

That’s why I think the bus station makes Preston unique.

I don’t think it’s as densely populated around the area to make an immediate impact.  If you did develop the area, that’s why it’s better in Manchester and Liverpool because there’s more people around it.   You’re going to have to start developing slowly and build it up before it gets to the other scale that he’s talking about.

I don’t think breaking it down is going to make any difference.  In the late 19th century, when Preston was more like a sort of a centre for trade.  Preston was way more important than Manchester because more people who came to Preston and came through the docks and the train station.  It was a major interchange.  So, I think it should have developed before other cities.  It had loads of potential but you can’t just say it didn’t develop because of the bus station.

It’s a starting point though.  There’s other areas.  If you start investing in one area, people will see that there’s investment going on.  Right now, if you look at Friargate, they don’t want ot invest because the shops are down but if they see someone investing in one building, they’ll want ot invest in another one and there’s this link between ….Businesses run off what other businesses are doing.  That’s why I think, personally, that you have to start somewhere and Preston is known for its travel and links between cities.  For us to start anywhere, its vital that we start with travel.

I can’t agree with that.  Investment does attract other investment but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you wipe everything out, the history.  You’re wiping out stuff that has got some value to it, whether you think it’s architecturally valuable or financially valuable or historically valuable to the people around it who have an emotional connection to it.  So, there’s a point to invest and to try and attract investment but I don’t think that demolition approach is automatically the right one.

I think what we’ve got at the moment, is a beautiful Victorian house with a horrible 70’s kitchen in it.  To rip that kitchen out and fit a nice, new modern one, obviously, it will have more value.

I think that maybe the people that aren’t from Preston, maybe they don’t understand what’s happened to Preston in time.  You’ve got people who live a few minutes walk from the main street.  Instead of using those shops, they’re jumping on the train to go to Manchester and as a result, half the shops on the main high street have closed down now.  I think that the whole discussion about the bus station is to try and get people who live around this area up to Blackpool, to deter those people from going to Manchester and Liverpool.

That’s what the Tithebarn project was about, really.

Raise your hand if you’re not from Preston.  Keep your hand up if you think we should keep the bus station.  Interesting, so in our small sample, for non-Prestonians, it is still important.  It’ll be interesting to gauge that across Preston.  My personal argument would be that it’s a bus station, although the building itself is for the people of Preston, the function is not.  The function’s actually national.  I’m not from Preston.  I’m from Manchester but I have strong memories of Preston and the bus station when we would stop off on the way to Blackpool and so it’s quite relevant to the memories of people across the country and we’re not necessarily picking up those views.  So it seems to be coming down to a question of memory, value and money that’s underpinning this discussion and we’re not going to be able to solve it here.  It’s going to run and run.  So let’s take a vote – who thinks we should keep the bus station?”

 

Students voted 66% against the demolition of the bus stationAll 3 ethical standpoints resulted in the decision to retain Preston Bus Station.

Please note that the comments here are based on an unedited record of student presentation. I have not verified the accuracy of their facts and figures.

Brutal Ethics (Part 2): Duty or Demolition? February 24, 2013

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Following on from the last post (Brutal Ethics Pt.1: The Virtues of Preston Bus Station), the second group offered their views based on a system of deontological ethics or decision-making based on rules or duties (further explanation of this…here). Here’s their transcript….

“The bus station’s focus is as an interchange for people going from London to Glasgow, for people from Manchester, so it is an interchange as well as for people using local bus routes. There’s 3,000 [CORRECTION: average of 56,000 ]people going in and out of the bus station on a weekday, not a weekend, a weekday. So, the duty of Preston Council is – could they make sure those voices been heard, because they want to replace the bus station with a smaller interchange near the train station, so it could be that it affects the amount of people coming in through Preston. It could affect the economy even though they could maybe refurbish the bus station and refurbish the area around the bus station, instead of having all the pound shops which are ruining the bus station area.

So, our main thoughts about it were regarding the national planning policy framework that has just been changed this year. One of the policies was about conserving and enhancing the historic environment and including heritage assets most at risk from neglect and decay, which the Preston Bus Station is. It also said to take into account the wider social, cultural and economic benefits of the conservation.

The desirability of new development can make a positive contribution to the local community and the character and distinctiveness. There are opportunities to draw a contribution made by the historic environment to the character of a place.

A lot of the new planning policy framework, it mentions over and over again about building a strong competitive community and trying to revitalise town centres. Now, the question is in terms of our decision is, are you enhancing that by knocking it down and rebuilding something or, if it was developed, or even just leaving it how it is, are you achieving those goals set in the framework? There’s figures that have been talked about, about how leaving the bus station would cost considerably more than just levelling it and starting again. But something that has also been mentioned in the framework is sustainability and nothing s talked about the embodied energy difference associated with the new build or a redevelopment of what’s already there.

Preston Council have actually changed the cost of what it will cost to have the bus station refurbished or rebuilt since 2010. Originally, they said the cost of refurbishment would cost about £4million and now, in 2013, they’ve changed the report to say it’s going to cost about 17 million, so it’s quite a big jump in the 3 years that they said where they said to knock it down and have it rebuilt it would cost 17-23 million and now on the website, they’ve changed it to say the refurbishment would cost 17-23 million so it seems a bit like they’re being a bit shady with the dealings, changing the figures to try and get people to say ‘oh, it’s going to cost more than it looks.’ They’re saying that it costs taxpayers £3,000 [CORRECTION: £300,000] a year to run the place as well. But they don’t mention the amount of people who are going through the bus station every day. And there’s shops in there that could be changed, and empty spaces. It just seems like they’re using people as a means to get a new bus station out of it – tricking people with the figures. So they don’t seem to be following the rules that they had set out themselves.

Again the framework mentions quite a few times about communities and aspects of bringing the community together. It could be said that even though a building isn’t used by the whole of the community, it still doesn’t holds a strong community value and is important to the people. The figures that are mentioned to do with how many people in Preston use it – I say, that’s irrelevant. Just because it’s not used by the whole of the community doesn’t mean it’s not iconic or of importance to the community.

If it’s a sustainable development option to retain it, if according to the new planning policy, it should be retained, so why did Preston councillors decide last December to demolish it?
I think the new planning policy guidelines, because they used to be thousands of pages long and now they’ve been changed to something like 60 pages, everything is written in a way that can be adapted to any situation and I think depending on the way that you want to read them, you could make the point either way. You could say, that in demolishing it and having a new building, it’s going to attract more people, and it would be possibly a better design and that will be better for the economy and revitalise the town or you could look at it as the other way that it’s important to the community and it would be a better option to work with what’s already there.

Also, they’d already planned to demolish it. It’s been planned for almost 10years, they’ve been wanting to demolish it. And when the Tithebarn fell through, that was going to be a £700million shopping and living space. And that was going to be where the bus station is, but they’ve kept it as being demolished and building a smaller one. I’m assuming that won’t cost as much money for them.

And that’s the main reason it wasn’t listed, because it was part of the Tithebarn project and they refused to list it because obviously it would impede the new development. And now, that hasn’t happened potentially it could be relisted.

Well, they applied for it in 2000 to be listed which was when I think the Tithebarn development was meant to have started and then they tried again in 2010 and 2011 and the Council opposed it, each and every time.

And they’ve just resubmitted it.

Now people are more aware of the situation and how immediate it could be, that it could be knocked down, there could be a few more people for keeping it and lobbying to keep it. It’s interesting the national policy framework. It goes on a lot about communal values. There needs to be some kind of community consultation about it. It shouldn’t just be up to the councillors. We should have a choice because that’s what builds a sustainable community, isn’t it. It’s the community involvement.

When they knock it down, all it’s going to be is a flat car park. And it’s got a multi-storey car park there. What’s the point of knocking down a car park to leave a car park?

That’s the issue with the figures isn’t it. What they’re proposing to build – the rebuild costs – is that like for like? Are you going to get the same level of income from a flat car park than you are from the existing car park? You’re not going to match the number of spaces for your £17million or whatever it is. So, are they comparing costs like for like?

Well, they’re going to reduce the size of the bus station

So the refurb costs, what you get for your money there, you’re getting more for your money than you would in the rebuild.

I suppose with the car park, they could lower the fees on the car park to get more use out of it, it’s not used as much as they’d like. They’re pretty expensive in the town centre.
It’s all well and good talking about it all, but it would be really nice to see something on paper, an actual design. I’d like the provision for greenspace. If they’re proposing to knock it down and replace it with something that’s useful – connects the rest of the town together. It’s only connected at the moment with subways and a road and the massive bus apron. It’d be nice if they were to knock it down and put some greenspace there and maybe some more retail units and parking. They’re affecting the skyline if they’re knocking it down. Preston doesn’t have the greatest skyline. It’s got a very mixed architecture and it’s not a massively built place. I like Preston skyline as it is.

Do you know what those figures actually relate to? Are they just numbers? Is it a scheme that they’ve actually costed?

No, they’ve just said that they’d originally done a figure without plans that cost £14-17million. When they’ve produced plans that aren’t detailed at all, it’s come to £17-23million.

Do you think those figures are manipulated?

It seems like they are. The refurbishments changed from £4million in 2010 to £17million in 2013 so it’s a big jump.

Who publishes these figures?

It’s the City Council.

But when you say Council, there’s the City Council and there’s the County Council. And one is necessarily supporting the other at the moment because Preston City Council are wanting to knock down the bus station but they’re relying on the County Council for the funds to rebuild the new one. Now there’s not actually been any integration there – no agreement on what’s going to happen, how it’s going to happen. So, potentially, the bus station could be knocked down and a big pile of rubble sits there for 5 years before anyone decides to build or do anything with the site.

Another thing with the communal value – we’ve already said that enough people come from London and Glasgow, and there’s enough value there for people who use it as an interchange but apparently it was publicly funded when it was built. So, it could be that they consider that when they knock it down. Consider the duty to the people who paid for it originally.

You talked about the listing process. As a rule based system that’s there to protect our built heritage, do you think that this is working?

It’s been seen to work on other buildings, but my view with Preston Bus Station is that its an iconic piece of Brutalist architecture, but other people may not see it the same way. Whether it’s because of money, enabling the development preventing it from being listed or they plain don’t like it and just want to knock it down.

It seems that if a building gets its heritage status, then it’s well protected. In that way it’s managed well but in terms of the process of deciding which buildings are to be judged as important, I’m not quite sure.

It seems to be subjective and political here. Nobody’s actually saying whether we need to preserve a Brutalist icon. What we’re discussing is that they’re protecting it only if it serves a political purpose. Not simply, purely for the simple value that it’s a good building. It’s becoming a political system rather than a simple function of conservation.

Are you yes or no as a group?

We are pro for it to stay. It should not be demolished

Please note that the comments here are based on an unedited record of student presentation. I have not verified the accuracy of their facts and figures except where corrections are shown.

The 3rd and final part to follow soon……In the meantime, feel free to post your comments.

Brutal Ethics (Part 1): The Virtues of Preston Bus Station February 22, 2013

Posted by jennibarrett in Uncategorized.
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Recently, I chaired a debate amongst 2nd & 3rd year architectural technology students at UCLan, Preston.  The debate applied the three ethical standpoints described in my last blog post to the future/death of Preston Bus Station.  This added a new perspective to this national dilemma and offered an ethical logic to decision making, rather than a reliance on personal ‘feel.’

The first group presented their discussion applied a system of virtue ethics, using judgement based on personal and/or professional moral character.  Here’s a transcript of this part of the debate:

“We wouldn’t like to see Preston Station be demolished due to its significance.

This is one of the main landmarks, one of the things that makes the city stand out

It’s going to cost more to demolish and rebuild it than it is to leave it there, so it’s better to just leave it there

It’s a profit making building which not only generates a healthy bottom line but whilst employing many it also contributes to 100 of thousands of pounds so it’s good for the economy.  There’s been quite a large public attitude against it being demolished.  There’s been nearly 1500 signature petition calling for a referendum on future demolition.”

It’s also been put forward twice for grade II listing which just shows its importance

A lot of the arguments against it say that it’s ugly and an eyesore but it’s an emotional link for local people.  It has a lot of value for people who live in Preston and I think the Council are overlooking that aspect of its importance to people.

It’s one of the most important buildings in Preston.  It’s been there for a long time now and it’s used by a lot of people.  In a Daily Telegraph online poll, readers voted by 75% to keep it.

If it’s so important and it has been put forward to be listed twice, why hasn’t it actually been listed?

I think due to it being built in 1969.  It’s only been 40 odd years.  Compared to other buildings that have been listed, they are over 100 years old.

But do we work on the basis that anything older than 40 years is more listable?  We don’t have the distance from when it was constructed to actually understand its importance from a historical point of view.

I think the purpose of it being listed is from the design not the year it was built in.   That’s the major talking point.  It’s a bit like Marmite.

But is it good to spend Preston Citizens’ taxpayers’ money to preserve something just because it looks good?

I say it’s such a talking point in the city.  If it was demolished, what would people talk about?  Generations to come will have no recollection of it.

People still talk about the Town Hall by Giles Gilbert Scott, which was knocked down after a fire but was too costly to renovate.  But people still talk about it as one of Preston’s best buildings.

So what’s your view if you had to say yes or no, what would you say?

We’d say no.  It holds value to a large number of people

What do you mean by value?  I value Preston Bus Station because I have memories associated with it but is that a value that can be used?

I think so.  Because there’s heritage value.

Are my values more important because I’m a Prestonian or would someone who comes from Manchester or London if they have a recollection of it, would they….

It’s more of a communal value.  If somebody lives down London, demolishing it isn’t going to affect them as much as local people so it’s more of a communal thing.

But that’s my national heritage.  If they’re going to knock down that lovely castle in Scotland that has that bridge going over the loch that ‘s my heritage too but I don’t live there.

But this is more for local people and isn’t going to affect someone who comes up once a year to stand at the bus station and marvel at it – because people do that.

For someone who doesn’t know much about it, can you explain what’s so special about the building?

It was built in the year when the motor car was the next new thing and it represented the hope of the town so it was the hub of the town.  People would travel to work and would get the bus. The main importance of it was to get people into the town .  This major flagship building was built to show off about the new motor industry.

Preston Bypass:  Britain’s first motorway.
(Note ceremonious hedge removal)

It is a unique design as well.  I’ve never seen a building that looks similar.

It’s very important to look at it in terms of when it was built.  It was built in the late 60s It was at the back end of Beeching and his report, which basically said that the railways didn’t have a future.  So, when you look at Central Lancashire New Town, because this wasn’t just for Preston, this was for the whole of Central Lancashire New Town – and you picked up on the point – that this was a hub where cars and buses would come in and be an interchange for all the other areas.  It wasn’t built anywhere near the railway, but that wasn’t an argument back then because people didn’t think the motorways had a future. And if you think about how well Preston bus station is connected to the M6 and Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, the Lake District, Blackpool  etc.,  it’s in the perfect location.

And is that relevant now?

I think even more so.

It’s iconic

But is it the future?

If you look at H2 the idea of that and it will take Preston off the main west coast mainline anyway so maybe rail travel in Preston is becoming less of an importance, as a result of developments in the next 20 years

Though arguably from a virtuous point of view, as architectural technologists, one of the virtues that we subscribe to is one of sustainability and this is sustainable development – is this symbol of the city, one which is about the car, the bus, motorised transport, is that what we want to use as the icon of the city?

Possibly not but that’s not to say it couldn’t be a hub for electric cars, for electric buses, that we have an integrated transport system that connects the bus station with the railway station, well, that’s where the Preston Tram idea comes from.  But 3 million pounds mentioned for the new upgrade of Fishergate is talked about but then there is no mention of the tram in there.  Short sightedness.  Preston City Council.

Thank you”

Do you agree?  Feel free to post your comments.

I will, of course, blog the remaining two sections of the debate, where utilitarian and rule/duty based ethics were applied.  Soon.

Virtues, Rules & Consequences: The ethics of designing buildings February 15, 2013

Posted by jennibarrett in Uncategorized.
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The everyday practice of design in the built environment is one of trade-offs and compromise. Quite frequently, these are presented as ethical dilemmas which challenge our ability to make easy judgements about how we should proceed in a way that will be defendable within law but also to the wider profession, the public, our clients but more importantly, to ourselves.   Typically, we do not set out to be ‘unethical‘ but find ourselves doubting the moral calibre of our work and its ability to withstand the test of reasonability made so famous by that man on the Clapham omnibus.
How do you justify your involvement in development that has long term environmental impacts?
Have you done enough to design out the possibilities of accidents caused by the construction of your proposal?
Whilst philosophers are usually only let loose in architectural history and theory lectures, they are quite handy here too.  The field of philosophy has distilled for us, three normative ethical responses.  These are really useful, because they essentially give us the three basic standpoints from which we can develop our argument with clarity and direction.  Given this grounding in accepted wisdom, the man on the Clapham omnibus should be pleased (and so will your insurers).  These three standpoints are:
1.  Virtue ethics
These relate to your personal character and emphasise your moral virtue.  Perhaps they are personal qualities that you have conciously set out to live by, such as fairness, generosity or honesty.  We might translate these into professional practice through equity, excellence and integrity.  We might also incorporate particular industry virtues into our practice ethos.  For example, a practice might focus its efforts on environmentally sustainable methods of building or principles of collaboration and co-operation.
Image
The Virtuous Building?
Oundle School Science Technology Block
Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios
Source:  RIBA
2.  Utilitarianism
This is a system of ethics that is related to the normative ethical theory of consequentialism.  So, a utilitarianist would argue that the moral worth of an action is measured ultimately, by its consequences.  You consider your actions in the context of the likely outcomes.  In this case, the end justifies the means.  If you are faced with a choice of actions, you would select the action that satisfies the most people.  This is frequently the ethical system applied to justify acts of war, for example, but it’s also prevalent in Victorian social reform.  You may even go so far as arguing that the utilitarian ideal underpins the modern public sector and as such, any discussion of public sector building procurement needs to address this purpose.  Best not to get started on that one….
3.    Deontological ethics (rule-based ethics)
From the Greek, ‘deon’ meaning ‘obligation’ or ‘duty, this system of ethics’ may also be called ‘duty-based’ or ‘rule-based.’  We all live by some form of duties or rules.  We are all subject to the law of the land, and professionally we subscribe to the rules inherent in construction and contract law.  Some of us derive our code of behaviours from the ancient books associated with our religious faith.  And unless you have ever been described as a sociopath, you tend to follow the rules inherent in our society.  We frequently feel a sense of duty to ‘help people’, for example, and many successfully integrate this with their professional lives.
Image
via Architecture for Humanity
As a professional, we follow the codes of conduct set out by our professional institution.  We also follow rules and codes published via statutory documents such as planning policy or building regulations.  There are non-statutory rules too.  A plethora of codes exist which we may use to justify our professional actions, such as the Code for Sustainable Homes or local design guides.  We don’t have to follow these, but a deontological response would advise us to recognise and follow the expertise they profess to extol.
Whichever ethical response feels more pertinent to your personal approach to life and work, there will always be a point where you find yourself between an ethical rock and a moral hard place.  You will be damned if you do and subject to a public inquiry if you don’t.  When this happens, note down the words of Albert Camus….
“Integrity has no need of rules.”