Preston Youth Center
Blank Architects participated in an international competition, organized by the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) in 2015. The competition was to redevelop the existing bus station, which had been designed by BDP architects in 1969 and gave Preston a unique place in coach travel due to its proximity to Britain’s first motorway.
Our task is to design a new brand; a “Youth Center” that will serve as a state-of-the-art facility for the young people of Preston. The County Council was keen to explore the opportunities this development presented to improve the connectivity from the Bus Station through to the wider Preston City Center. This will offer the people of Preston a new attractive civic space and pedestrian route for further development within this part of the City Center.
"The recreation area, which is the heart of the Youth Center, will be consciously located in the Bus Station Building.
The Brutalism architecture that was once threatened by demolition has now been given a new heart."
About the New and the Old
Let’s discuss the Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) competition for a Youth Center in Preston.
Sure. First of all, let’s discuss the area in and around the station. The western apron of the Preston Bus Station is divided into three equal parts that make up the bus station controlling grids, while the new Youth Center building will take up the northern third and the last two-thirds that make up the public square. The new main entrance to the Preston Bus Station will be situated exactly opposite the entrance to the St. John’s Shopping Center passage, connecting it further to the Markets Quarter. The public square was likewise divided but into two equal parts by a direct passage that leads from the St. John’s passage to the Bus Station’s Main Entrance. Also two shortcuts run from Lord Street and Old Vicarage Street diagonally through the squares to the Main Entrance. These are fast pedestrian lanes for late passengers.
The rest of the space will have to be significantly altered. Two corners of the squares will be uplifted slightly creating the curved planes of the square. The square is not overdesigned with details and leaves space for both spontaneous and organized events like an open-air cinema, art exhibition or beach volleyball contest.
What changes will you make to the exterior of the bus station?
The Bus Station Concourse glazing will become more transparent to connect the exterior and interior as much as possible, parts of the facades will open in the summer time, allowing the building to become part of the square. New lighting and mezzanine glass cladding will be arranged according to the plan. Only the new furniture will not follow the grid, they will be located playfully throughout the space. Also they are the spark of a functional change in this part of the Concourse: lounge chairs for comfortable sitting and waiting, a foosball table for killing time, chairs and tables in front of the cafeteria.
The Youth Center building seems to be very compact and simple.
Yes, efficiency, clear rules, and transparency will be the main design drivers. The recreation area, which is the heart of the Youth Center, will be consciously located in the Bus Station Building. The Brutalist architecture that was once threatened by demolition has now been given a new heart. The zone is full of diverse activities and attracts the attention of travelers, making the bus station a cheerful place, but also highlights the fact that we need a place to exist, that we are creative and co-operative, and forward thinking.
And the building will be fully transparent?
That’s right you can see from one end to the other, and all of the activities layer one another. But it also gives you privacy when you need it - you simply press a button and make the glass partition opaque. And that’s how the building will look from the outside. It looks like a new white iPhone, with its sharp curved edge when it is split into the old Preston Bus Station, and its glass facades transparent, translucent or opaque, depending on the mood its inhabitants are in.