Here’s an unfortunate article by Oliver Wainwright in the Guardian, describing Preston’s 1960s bus station as ‘majestic’ and deriding a new alternative design. No, it’s not a spoof.
Preston bus station is among the more unpleasant environments I’ve had to spend time in and I know I’m not alone in having had that experience. Through a link to one of Wainwright’s previous articles, I find a picture caption claiming that
‘Preston Bus Station is rightly recognised as one of the country’s most dramatic public buildings of its time.’
‘Rightly recognised’? Well it may be among the most dramatic, given much of the architecture we had to put up with from those years, but it’s not healthy to go on about it.
What we have here, I suspect, is another example of the Robin Hood Gardens phenomenon, where architects tell ordinary people that they have no taste. RHG was manifestly a disaster and a disgrace to civilisation, but architects were telling us to the death that it was some kind of masterpiece. There's a regrettable professional closed-ranks-refusal to accept that brutalism was a mistake. In a postscript on RHG I noted
‘What's most depressing about it though is that the louder the architects clamour, the less faith the rest of us can have that they will in future pay due account to what it's like to live there.’
It’s the old problem of architects seeing their output as objects defined by a mathematical aesthetic and not as occupied space that plays a part - often a huge part - in the everyday lives of people who (guess what?) can't afford penthouses and chauffeurs. People deserve public space that affords a sense of humanity. I don't understand why this is still such a problem.