The Trust’s Architectural Award is given annually for the best piece of restoration or new build in the City and surrounding area. This year, for the first time, the winner, Durham Railway Station, combines the two in a harmonious manner. For several years, and under a succession of train operators, various individual pieces of excellent renovation have been undertaken. But Trustees have intentionally withheld consideration of the Station until what they considered to be completion of the whole programme. That time has now arrived and the Award for 2009 therefore is clearly deserved by a building which plays such a key role in the life of the City.
For years, the charm of G.T. Andrews’ modest 1857 creation had been demeaned by a succession of prefabricated units which had become the centre of activity. In most recent times insult was added to injury when, at the introduction of 125 express trains, the south platform was shaved, and its patterned canopy removed, to ease the curve on the approach to the viaduct.
The first of the renovations was in the mid-1990s with the opening up of the waiting room on the neglected north platform. (For this work the Station received a Railway Heritage Trust Award.) A coffee bar has recently been added, while the end wall has been covered with a stunning photographic mural of the view of castle and cathedral. Outside, the cast iron canopy and stonework have been restored.
On the opposite side the original Station building has been restored and resumed its role as centre-stage, while the prefabricated sections have been replaced by extensive glazing supported by a strong metal framework which allows glimpses of the City and protection from winds in this elevated position
At the south end of the south platform a retail and concourse lounge has been inserted, an unashamedly modern creation which takes its cue from the metal supports of the 1980’s platform canopy. The complementary glazing and white floor tiles complete an enclosed space full of light.
The most recent feature has been the erection on both platforms of glazed barriers incorporating ticket gates. Much more appropriate than the previous wooden barriers, the new ones divide but at the same time act as a unifying feature, with no interrupting of the appreciation of the architectural space as a whole. Overall unification has been enhanced by the application of fresh livery to buildings and structures.
The present station manager, Mr Phil Crow, is understandably proud of the renovated structure. Special tribute should be paid to architect John Ives, formerly in the Architecture and Design Group in British Railway’s Board York office, now a partner of Potts, Parry, Ives and Young, Limited in York. His association with the Station actually dates back to the time of electrification. He has since been involved with almost every project. The one major exception has been the main building and concourse on the south platform which were conceived by two Australian architects, Humphrey and Edwards, brought over for a period by GNER. Even here, conception was turned into detailed drawings by John Ives.
See Bulletin 68, February 2010, for details of this building and other candidates for the award.