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Save Dunelm House in Durham

Commonly known as the Durham Students’ Union, Dunelm House in Durham UK is facing a very bleak future. The Dept. for Culture Media and Sports (DCMS) told the Architect’s Newspaper (AN) that Secretary of State Karen Bradley has been approached to issue a Certificate of Immunity from Listing (COI). This is a campaign to save the building.

Durham University has applied for a COI in April of last year. They have also launched a competition for redesigning the concrete structure. Last December, Bradley avoided calls from Historic England to award the Brutalist 51-year-old building a Grade II listing status.

The university contends that restoring Dunelm House would be far too expensive, running an estimated $18-million.

Brutalist architecture is a movement in architecture that was popular from the 1950s to the mid-1970s. It descended from the modernist architectural movement of the early 20th century. Peter and Alison Smithson met while studying architecture at Durham University and noted this style of architecture has very deep roots in Durham.

Since the time of its opening, Dunelm House has won the 1966 RIBA Bronze Medal and the Civic Trust Award. The Dept. for Culture Media and Sports (DCMS) announced that through consideration, it has decided that Dunelm House does not meet the historic or special architectural interest required for listing.

Dunelm House was designed by Architects’ Co-Partnership and engineered by Ove Arup. The materials and form used, complimented Arup’s Grade I Kingsgate Bridge which was also completed in 1966. The Kingsgate Bridge has odd details such as chains attached to the concrete for tying the structure down.

The slopes are in harmony with the terrain of the site which dramatically veers down to the River Wear’s banks. There are also incredible views of the 937-year-old Durham Cathedral which rises to incredible heights above trees that form the landscape integrated with the Kingsgate Bridge.

Historic England has stated this building should be listed due to its superb example of the 1960s university architecture. The university’s argument that it would be too expensive to restore falls short of the simple fact that it would be twice as expensive to replace it with anything meaningful. No one seems able to follow the reasoning behind the DCMS overturning the advice of Historic England. Their statement does absolutely nothing to answer questions and concerns.

Dunelm House is an exceptional piece of modern architecture. It’s boldness and originality speaks volumes of the rich culture of the great architectures of its time. The university’s belief that they can construct something, even half as good, at a lower cost than repairing Dunelm House is living in a total fantasy! It’s a significant building that works with and complements its surroundings. It’s aggressive, captures your attention, and is an important part of the River Wear. It offers a peaceful place and the more time one spends there, it evokes something so very friendly.

Why This Building Is So Important
Dunelm House was completed in 1966 by the Architects’ Co-Partnership and engineered by Ove Arup. Arup was born in Heaton, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and was considered one of the greatest engineers of the 20th century. He played an important role in pioneering engineering projects worldwide. He was the designer and supervisor of the Kingsgate Bridge and as the design engineer for the world famous Sydney Opera House.

An Honorary Geordie, Arup believed Kingsgate Bridge was one of the most important projects in his career. He requested his ashes be scattered from the bridge upon his death in 1988.

Dunelm House and Kingsgate are connected as a union of structures that depend on each other. They are the two most significant structures in the United Kingdom if not all of Europe or the entire world. They are at the doorway of Durham so why would anyone want to lose or damage these treasures?

It Is Old, Ugly, Dirty Concrete
It’s concrete and therefore needs to be cleaned. If your home wasn’t cleaned for 50 + years, it wouldn’t look too nice either. The building does need work but the university calculates it will cost £14.7m to restore. Although that might seem like a great deal of money, it’s no more than renovations to other university buildings. Keep in mind what it will cost to demolish it, bury it in a landfill and then rebuild on top of it. Would the land even be sustainable?

The Building Can Not Accommodate New Users
This is simply a statement by the university to justify their master plan to put another building in its place. Of course, there would be a significant investment but their master plan is not justifiable with their existing building plans. Wouldn’t it be wiser to adjust the master plan instead of trying to put a round peg into a square hole?

Demolition is highly unsustainable, wasteful, and very costly both environmentally and financially. That should be the very last resort when everything else fails. The building is not falling down, it’s a testimonial to one of the greatest engineers of the 20th century!

The Roof Leaks
All roofs leak at some point in time. Your modern roofs are only guaranteed for 20 years. Dunelm House’s roof is over 50-years old. It needs a new roof just like so many other buildings! The university has been aware of this condition for well over 10 years and now it’s time to fix it!

It Costs Too Much To Repair
Durham University has estimated redesign and repairs would cost at least £14.7m. With an interior of 3,980 sqm, it is estimated the cost would reach £3600 per sqm. Although that might seem steep, the cost for the Durham University’s new Ogden Center for Fundamental Physics costs £11.5m per sqm, that was a staggering £4,640 per sqm!

A completely new building on top of Dunelm House will cost millions more due to demolition , disposal of Dunelm House into a landfill, numerous complexities of the site due to terrain, retaining walls, structural requirements, and access issues that will make the project very complex and very costly. Refurbishing the current building will be a great deal cheaper than a new building.

A New Building Will Make Durham A World Class City
Durham is already a world class university city! Its diverse architecture over the past millennium includes the 20th century. The university is a huge patron of modern architecture, especially during the 60s. Why fix something that is not broken? Why undo great architecture and lose it forever?

Look at very successful refurbishments to modernist buildings such as Park Hil in Sheffield (Hawkins Brown) or the Barbican in London (AHMM) completed just 10 years ago. Both are successful projects, prestigious, award-winning, high profile, world class buildings that have celebrated the value of the Twentieth Century Architecture. New is not always better! Keep Durham on the world class stage. New and modern will not work but will simply remove Durham from its current position!

A petition to help save the building is available online and naturally, there is a Save Dunelm House Twitter page.

The Simple & Functional Design Philosophy Of The Bauhaus School

In 1911, Walter Gropius along with his contemporary Adolf Meyer designed the Fagus Factory in Germany.  It was Gropius’ first major project and a significant moment for modernism.

In 1919, Gropius founded the Bauhaus school of art and design.  Students discussed philosophies that eventually shaped modernism throughout Europe and eventually the entire world.

These students were taught a certain design approach that encompassed a huge spectrum from architecture, furniture, and typography to name a few.  By studying form and materials, they became the masters of understated, plain expressions that did not include repetitious additions that were popular in classical extravagances.  These older concepts were seen as unnecessary and totally nonfunctional in the eyes of these students.

When the Nazi party took over Germany, there were very few examples of Bauhaus architecture because the school closed in 1933.  The followers and developers of Bauhaus architecture emigrated mostly to the United States.  Their influence would eventually develop into the International Movement that took place decades later.

Here are some of the buildings in Germany that developed out of the earlier years of Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus:


The Fagus Factory

In 1911, Walter Gropius and his contemporary Adolf Myer designed this building.  It was Gropius’ first major project and became a significant factor in modernism.  Gropius new design concepts, forms, and functionality is prominent in the large windows which were designed to provide natural light for the workers.

One of the major concepts behind Bauhaus school was implementing visual art and design then treating them as one.  The Dessau school building is a perfect example of prominent modern-type characters, manifesting the equality between architecture and typography.  Typography is the art of printing with type.


The Bauhaus Building

One of the most important principles at the Bauhaus school was all visual art and design were to be as one.  If you look closely at the modern type characters on the Dessau school building, you will see total equality between the architecture and the typography.


The Bauhaus Dormitory

The Bauhaus Dormitory

As you look at the beauty and simplicity of the balconies at the Bauhaus, you can easily imagine students stepping out to enjoy the surrounding views or take in the evening air.

In further studies, the grand, one-of-a-kind estates and homes were significantly different than the contrasting and complex Meisterhäuser which was the detached home of the Bauhaus director.


Haus am Horn

Built for the Bauhaus exhibition in 1923, this home was designed by artist Georg Muche.  It echoes Bauhaus modernism with its complete simplicity and functionally structured design.


Art Nouveau Style Architecture

The Origins of Architectural Designs

Architecture has always been the designing of structures dominated by their time in history.  Whether in present times or 2,000 years ago, architects defined their creativity in ways that would be appealing to the populace, religious influences, and cultures.  Architecture influences future designs that will incorporate portions from past designs while forming structures that are unique.


Adirondack Architecture

Adirondack Architecture

This style of architecture harmonizes with the outdoors, creating designs that compliment surrounding nature.  It’s rugged design used natural building materials that are found in the Adirondack Mountains.  Natural materials such as roots, bark, granite and logs, to name a few, allowing architects to create structures that blended in with the landscape.  Massive fireplaces and chimneys were cut from stone and were extremely popular with the great campsites constructed for wealthy families like the Vanderbilts.  The Adirondack Mountains are located in upstate New York and was a popular retreat for the wealthy barons of the Victorian era through the 1940s.

As mentioned earlier, many architectural designs borrowed from other forms.  Adirondack Architecture developed their design based on Swiss chalets which were first introduced to America by architect Andrew Jackson Downing around 1850.  William West Durant (1850-1934) designed camps in the Adirondack Great Camp style in areas that are now National Historic Landmarks.

Some Examples Of This Architecture:



Adam Style Architecture (Adamesque)

This design came from pieces of Neoclassical designs in the 18th century which revolutionized the industry with a graceful, fresh look.  Also called Adamesque or Style of the Brothers Adam.  Three Scottish brothers designed interiors and architecture, most commonly known were Robert Adams (1728-1792) and James Adams (1732-1994).

Their architecture was very popular with the middle-class and upper-class homes in the 1760s.  Their distinctive designs are prominent in walls, fireplaces, fixtures, fittings, carpet and ceilings.  Most commonly constructed in Britain and Russian and post-Revolutionary War United States.  In the United States, this design took on the name of Federal design which lasted until 1795.  In 1795 this style was replaced by the Regency and French Empire styles.

Read More & See Examples of this Style:


Art Nouveau Style Architecture

Art Nouveau Style Architecture

In French Art Nouveau translates to “New Art” and was extremely popular in the late 19th and 20th centuries.  This style brought about very multi-colorful buildings, especially throughout Europe.  This style influenced everything from textiles, furniture, jewelry, lighting, and even fine art.

Buildings were asymmetrical shapes, stained glass, mosaics, arches and surfaces adorned floral motifs and plant image decorations.  Many associate this style with the 1920s and early 30s in the U.S.

Examples Of Art Nouveau Architecture:


Indian Architecture

Indian Architecture

Indian architecture is deeply rooted in their history, religion, and culture.  The design developed from various influences that were the result of India’s global discourse in other regions throughout its past.  Its design, structure and decorative surfaces are distinctive to the region that was influenced by western design in ancient India.  It was especially influenced from the Buddhist Stupa of the Colonial Era.  Due to economic reforms in 1991, urban architecture of India became more integrated with the world economy.

You can read more about this wonderful form of architecture and see its many styles here:


Islamic Architecture

Islamic Architecture

The most common designs include domes, towers, Islamic calligraphy and used widely for tombs, mosques, and forts.  Probably the most notable examples of this architectural design is the Alhambra. The very specific and recognizable architectural style came after Muhammad’s time and was inspired by previous Sassanid & Byzantine styles.


Ottonian Architecture

Ottonian Architecture

This architecture evolved during the reign of Emperor Otto The Great in Germany.  It was predominant from the middle 10th century until the middle 11th century.  Ottonian was strongly influenced by Byzantine and Carolingian architecture.

An example of this design can be seen in the apse of the Abbey of the Holy Trinity in Essen and has kept the Carolingian double-ended features of apses at either end of the church.


Victorian Architecture

Victorian Architecture

Probably one of the most recognized form of architecture, this style was at its peek during the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901.  Structures in this design are massive, extremely decorative and in many cases quite colorful.  If walking through an authentic Victorian home, you will notice timber-framed box forms, overhangs, irregular floor plans, extravagant or simplistic in nature.

This form of architecture was strongly influenced by the Middle East and Asian designs.  Victorian came after Georgian and Regency designs and was later replaced by the Edwardian style of architecture.

In the United States, an authentic Victorian home was not designed with closets.  Instead homeowners used armoires.  This is because back in Victorian times, homes were taxed by the number of rooms within the home and closets were considered rooms!  Rooms were generally larger to compensate for the number of rooms in the upper-class homes.  Read more about Victorian Architecture & Beautiful Designs: