Stonebow can still provoke argument

York Press: Stonebow can still provoke argument Stonebow can still provoke argument

JONATHAN PETERS is in a tiny minority when he says he likes Stonebow House (Letters, December 4).

Certain periods in architecture should be forgotten and consigned to history and one of these is 1960s brutalism.

This building has to be York’s ugliest and is an eyesore for tourists coming out of Shambles.

The best thing to do would be to demolish Stonebow House and build a much-needed bus station in its place.

This would certainly make waiting for a bus more attractive – certainly better than the dirty cramped shelters we have at present. Who knows, it might even tempt more tourists on to buses to visit attractions outside of York.

Ian Foster, Hawthorne Avenue, Haxby, York.
 

• JONATHAN PETERS is a brave man to defend Hilary House. He is right that modern buildings do have their place in our urban landscape; it is just that many of them have been put in the wrong place.

Hilary House is one of the worst examples because its sheer size is out of scale for its location and its juxtaposition is dreadful. It towers above all earlier buildings and entirely ruins the view down historic St Saviourgate.

A building of this size should never have been put there in the first place. Adding another floor is not a good idea.

Matthew Laverack, Architect of this parish, Lord Mayor’s Walk, York.


• THREE cheers for Jonathan Peters (Letters, December 4) in decrying unreasonable hatred of 1960s buildings in York.

I too admire Hilary House and Stonebow House, and would gladly join a preservation society, should either of them be threatened with demolition.

Mark Gladwin, Huntington Road, York.

Comments (7)

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12:08pm Fri 6 Dec 13

roobarb85 says...

Stonebow and Hilary House are of their time - just as Victorian, Edwardian etc edifices are.
I like to see modern structures - much better than Victorian pastiche
Stonebow and Hilary House are of their time - just as Victorian, Edwardian etc edifices are. I like to see modern structures - much better than Victorian pastiche roobarb85

12:37pm Fri 6 Dec 13

sheddie says...

Always struck me that it's the grim grey concrete aspect more than the shape that makes these buildings miserable. How about getting some imaginative paintwork onto them instead?
Always struck me that it's the grim grey concrete aspect more than the shape that makes these buildings miserable. How about getting some imaginative paintwork onto them instead? sheddie

11:11pm Fri 6 Dec 13

Pinza-C55 says...

sheddie wrote:
Always struck me that it's the grim grey concrete aspect more than the shape that makes these buildings miserable. How about getting some imaginative paintwork onto them instead?
In particular with Stonebow House it is the style, colour, appearance and situation which makes it hideous. It has no merit whatsoever, possibly part of the reason why it is (I think) half empty. Its a pity property companies can't be charged full business rates for empty properties - that would soon get the demolition ball swinging.
[quote][p][bold]sheddie[/bold] wrote: Always struck me that it's the grim grey concrete aspect more than the shape that makes these buildings miserable. How about getting some imaginative paintwork onto them instead?[/p][/quote]In particular with Stonebow House it is the style, colour, appearance and situation which makes it hideous. It has no merit whatsoever, possibly part of the reason why it is (I think) half empty. Its a pity property companies can't be charged full business rates for empty properties - that would soon get the demolition ball swinging. Pinza-C55

12:54am Sat 7 Dec 13

Magicman! says...

roobarb85 wrote:
Stonebow and Hilary House are of their time - just as Victorian, Edwardian etc edifices are.
I like to see modern structures - much better than Victorian pastiche
Good to see some people see things for what they are. If every city decided that more modern buildings were "out of place" then we'd just be left with cookie-cutter rows of fake tudor-look buildings with leaded windows and wooden buttresses, which would then get boring. What makes things interesting is when they are unique, or at least of a very small number.... Preston bus station is of the same Brutalist genre as Stonebow House, and has just been granted Grade 2 Listed status for the simple fact that no other building in the UK looks like that. Now compare buildings like that or Stonebow Hosue to the row of shops on Spurriergate, those flats with the empty ground-floor premises at Merchantgate, or what will end up being built on Hungate - and you will see those are just bland, conformist, fake-stone-clad, characterless blocks.

Yes I used to dislike Stonebow House, and I've worked in it for a while so I know what it's like inside too; but recently I took a good look at it, the fact the office block itself is not a square profile when seen from above but rather a pentagon, the fact the office block from ground level looks as if somebody has tried to pierce it on the rest of the building like a marshmallow on a stick, the fact the perimiter wall of the carpark is not straight but rather an angular S-bend, the massive concrete buttresses sticking out defiantly to hold the rest of the structure up, and the jaunty angles of other parts of the building such as the staircase retaining walls and the like. Plus it is a multifunctional building that also holds a parking deck (granted there's no access to the building from it, which makes the 'parking deck' button in the lift seem a bit pointless), which in its time would have held enough cars for everybody who worked there but is now providing much needed central parking space... and we all know if it was replaced with a modern building that it wouldn't provide anywhere near as much parking; if it was an office block it'd probably get built to provide just 6 spaces for the managers and that would be it.

The problem is that it is scruffy, and the owners of the buildingwon't do anything about it and just expect buisnesses will buy space off them. The building needs to be freshened up - get rid of those horrible drafty inefficient black-framed windows and replace with modern triple-glazing; install full-building air conditioning with heat pump, and a heat recovery system, put in a big 'lantern' type skylight at the top of the staircase to let natural light down the central shaft; and ligthen up the external concrete in specific places such as the retaining walls - ie by whitewashing... perhaps demolish the smaller concrete building seen to the far right of the photo at the top of this page, to get rid of the 'concrete tunnel' effect (or 'birmingham syndrome'!) and leave it as an open grassed space. Also ideally some of the buisnesses would change to: the big one being for the jobcentre (and it's association of chavs) to move elsewhere, move the betting shop elsewhere too. In fact if all the premises accessible from the bus stops was freed up, you could have a row of small independant traders take up the space - like 'the rows' in Chester as it's be covered away from the rain and with local buisnesses inside, but just in a more modern building. Oh, and I'd probably also put colour-changing LED light strips going up the full height of the office block at each corner and just inside the overhang of the car park walkway underside to illuinate the 'row' underneath.
[quote][p][bold]roobarb85[/bold] wrote: Stonebow and Hilary House are of their time - just as Victorian, Edwardian etc edifices are. I like to see modern structures - much better than Victorian pastiche[/p][/quote]Good to see some people see things for what they are. If every city decided that more modern buildings were "out of place" then we'd just be left with cookie-cutter rows of fake tudor-look buildings with leaded windows and wooden buttresses, which would then get boring. What makes things interesting is when they are unique, or at least of a very small number.... Preston bus station is of the same Brutalist genre as Stonebow House, and has just been granted Grade 2 Listed status for the simple fact that no other building in the UK looks like that. Now compare buildings like that or Stonebow Hosue to the row of shops on Spurriergate, those flats with the empty ground-floor premises at Merchantgate, or what will end up being built on Hungate - and you will see those are just bland, conformist, fake-stone-clad, characterless blocks. Yes I used to dislike Stonebow House, and I've worked in it for a while so I know what it's like inside too; but recently I took a good look at it, the fact the office block itself is not a square profile when seen from above but rather a pentagon, the fact the office block from ground level looks as if somebody has tried to pierce it on the rest of the building like a marshmallow on a stick, the fact the perimiter wall of the carpark is not straight but rather an angular S-bend, the massive concrete buttresses sticking out defiantly to hold the rest of the structure up, and the jaunty angles of other parts of the building such as the staircase retaining walls and the like. Plus it is a multifunctional building that also holds a parking deck (granted there's no access to the building from it, which makes the 'parking deck' button in the lift seem a bit pointless), which in its time would have held enough cars for everybody who worked there but is now providing much needed central parking space... and we all know if it was replaced with a modern building that it wouldn't provide anywhere near as much parking; if it was an office block it'd probably get built to provide just 6 spaces for the managers and that would be it. The problem is that it is scruffy, and the owners of the buildingwon't do anything about it and just expect buisnesses will buy space off them. The building needs to be freshened up - get rid of those horrible drafty inefficient black-framed windows and replace with modern triple-glazing; install full-building air conditioning with heat pump, and a heat recovery system, put in a big 'lantern' type skylight at the top of the staircase to let natural light down the central shaft; and ligthen up the external concrete in specific places such as the retaining walls - ie by whitewashing... perhaps demolish the smaller concrete building seen to the far right of the photo at the top of this page, to get rid of the 'concrete tunnel' effect (or 'birmingham syndrome'!) and leave it as an open grassed space. Also ideally some of the buisnesses would change to: the big one being for the jobcentre (and it's association of chavs) to move elsewhere, move the betting shop elsewhere too. In fact if all the premises accessible from the bus stops was freed up, you could have a row of small independant traders take up the space - like 'the rows' in Chester as it's be covered away from the rain and with local buisnesses inside, but just in a more modern building. Oh, and I'd probably also put colour-changing LED light strips going up the full height of the office block at each corner and just inside the overhang of the car park walkway underside to illuinate the 'row' underneath. Magicman!

9:22am Sat 7 Dec 13

Jonthan says...

I have always strongly supported modern architecture, and recently we have had some good examples in the City, the extension to St Johns University at the junction of Lord Mayors walk and Clarence Street being one.
Ideally we want all architectural styles represented in the City. Unfortunately the buildings in questions are not good examples. If you look at Trellick Tower in London or the London Barbican centre you will see brutalism as it should be represented. Unfortunately this is not the case with the Stonebow building which is mostly a carpark with a stumpy building on the end. It was built at a time when we had a dreadful council in place, motivated not by what was in the best interests of the City, but by what was most profitable for business.
I know there are philistines that would destroy every building constructed after 1780 but It does our architectural heritage no favours when well meaning people fall into the opposite trap and ruin the reputation of architectural styles bu campaigning to save the very worst examples.
I have always strongly supported modern architecture, and recently we have had some good examples in the City, the extension to St Johns University at the junction of Lord Mayors walk and Clarence Street being one. Ideally we want all architectural styles represented in the City. Unfortunately the buildings in questions are not good examples. If you look at Trellick Tower in London or the London Barbican centre you will see brutalism as it should be represented. Unfortunately this is not the case with the Stonebow building which is mostly a carpark with a stumpy building on the end. It was built at a time when we had a dreadful council in place, motivated not by what was in the best interests of the City, but by what was most profitable for business. I know there are philistines that would destroy every building constructed after 1780 but It does our architectural heritage no favours when well meaning people fall into the opposite trap and ruin the reputation of architectural styles bu campaigning to save the very worst examples. Jonthan

8:48am Sun 8 Dec 13

last of the mandms says...

There is an area in York where "brutalist" architecture worked very well, the University Campus. Sadly this site has now been ruined by a plethora of "post modernism".
There is an area in York where "brutalist" architecture worked very well, the University Campus. Sadly this site has now been ruined by a plethora of "post modernism". last of the mandms

2:44pm Sun 8 Dec 13

Dr Robert says...

The concrete monstrosity should have been demolished years ago!
The concrete monstrosity should have been demolished years ago! Dr Robert

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