Brutalist Preston Bus Station becomes youngest winner of World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize

Preston Bus Station, the brutalist building whose future was secured thanks to the research of the School of Architecture’s Dr Christina Malathouni, was awarded the prestigious World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize for its refurbishment by John Puttick Associates.

Designed by Keith Ingham and Charles Wilson of Building Design Partnership and completed in 1969, Preston Bus Station is a key example of the architectural style known as Brutalism, but it has been under threat of demolition for over a decade.

Since the late 1990s, it was twice turned down for listing by the Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, despite the firm support of the heritage sector and a number of grassroots initiatives.

Dr Christina Malathouni, who played a key role in securing a future for the building, will be presenting her work together with architect John Puttick, and the Twentieth Century Society, in an online discussion on 9 December.

Dr Malathouni’s research established the pioneering use of Glass Reinforced Polyester (GRP) in the design and construction of Preston Bus Station, which had been previously overlooked. Working closely with professional and lay stakeholders, including The Twentieth Century Society (the National Amenity Society specialising in post-1914 buildings) and the “Save Preston Bus Station” campaign, Malathouni’s research changed the future of Preston Bus Station and made it a landmark case in post-war architectural heritage.

The listing case for Preston Bus Station was re-opened within two years from the previous listing assessment (whereas at least five years is normal between successive listing assessments) and the building was listed at Grade II on 23 September 2013.

A number of national heritage and architecture awards followed the building’s listing. The “Save Preston Bus Station” campaign won a Heritage [Alliance] Heroes Award in 2014 and, following an international RIBA competition for its refurbishment in 2015 (won by John Puttick Associates), the building also won: the RIBA North West Award 2019, the RIBA North West Conservation Award 2019, the RIBA North West Client of the Year 2019, an RIBA National Award 2019, and a RTPI Regional Award for Planning Excellence 2019 (Culture and Heritage).

As part of World Monument Fund’s (WMF) invaluable initiative to “recognize outstanding physical interventions to preserve modern heritage”, Preston Bus Station is now rubbing shoulders with outstanding modernist buildings like the Viipuri Library in Vyborg, designed by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, and the Zonnestraal Sanatorium in Hilversum, the Netherlands, designed by architects Jan Duiker, Bernard Bijvoet and Jan Gerko Wiebeng.

It is only the second building from the post-WWII period – and the youngest so far – to have won the WMF/Knoll Modernism Prize. As Barry Bergdoll, jury chair of the 2021 prize, noted: “Preston Bus Station is [also] the largest project honored by the World Monuments Fund/Knoll Prize and the first at the scale of regional infrastructure”.