Irony seems to have been a permanent feature in the Preston Bus Station saga. But this time it may be of a positive note: the very same day that Lancashire Evening Post commented on the latest news concerning the Tithebarn project going ‘back to the drawing board’, Robert Booth of The Guardian noted how this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist includes two existing buildings that have been retrofitted and are now ’in the running to be named best new building of the year’.
The fact that next to the Grade II* listed Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon (Elisabeth Scott, 1932; current scheme by Bennetts Associates) stands an unlisted 1980s office block in Islington, London (the former British Telecom headquarters; current scheme by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris), makes the recent news regarding Preston’s regeneration a compelling case against the demolition of its iconic Bus Station. When refurbishment schemes are praised for saving money and energy and are also considered for the top architectural prize of the nation, one cannot but think Preston has a golden opportunity in its hands. Add to the equation the fondness of Preston people for the building, the adamant position of heritage experts as regards its special architectural interest, and the fact that the Bus Station is strongly competing as BDP’s favourite place ever and, it sounds to me, making Preston Bus Station the core of the city centre’s regeneration could be a straightforward win-win situation. Perhaps even a scheme competing for the Stirling Prize in one of the following years? I just hope I am not the only one listening!