1,000 signatures reached
To: Durham University
Save Dunelm House
We the undersigned ask that Durham University save Dunelm House, repair, refurbish and maintain the building.
Why is this important?
Q: Why is the building important?
A: Dunelm House was completed in 1966 by the Architects' Co-Partnership and engineered by Ove Arup. Ove Arup was born in Heaton, Newcastle Upon-Tyne and was one of the greatest engineers of the 20th Century. Arup played a crucial role in pioneering engineering works worldwide, serving most notably as the designer and supervisor for Durham’s own Kingsgate Bridge (Grade I listed), and as design engineer for the Sydney Opera House.
Arup, an honorary Geordie, considered Kingsgate Bridge one of the most important projects of his career, requesting that his ashes be scattered from the bridge following his death in 1988. Kingsgate and Dunelm House are physically connected, as a marriage of structures that depend upon each other. This makes Dunelm House and Kingsgate Bridge two of the most significant structures in the UK, if not Europe, if not the World! And they are on our doorstep in Durham. Why would you want to lose or damage either?
Q: It’s a load of ugly dirty grey concrete - knock it down.
A: Yes, it is dirty. It is white concrete. And it needs a clean. If you had not cleaned your house for 51 years, it would look grim too. The building needs major work, which Durham University calculate would cost £14.7m. It might seem like a lot of money, but this is a fraction of what recent building projects have required, and is comparable to renovations and extensions to other university buildings. And just think what it could cost to demolish it, bury it in a landfill (how unsustainable!) and rebuild on the same site.
Q: The building 'is not able to accommodate new uses, so we should demolish it.
A: This statement has been reached as part of the University’s ‘strategic masterplan’, which wants to put another building use on the site of Dunelm House. Of course, this doesn't work without significant investment. So perhaps the masterplan has not been adequately evidenced or justified in trying to impose a new function on an existing building - it’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Why not simply adjust the masterplan? Demolition is highly unsustainable, wasteful and very costly financially and environmentally. It should always be the last move when all else fails, and your building is literally falling down. Dunelm House is not falling down - it was designed by one of the greatest engineers of the 20th Century.
Q: But the building has a leaky roof!
A: Yes it does. All roofs leak at some point (even Durham Cathedral’s roof leaks - it doesn't mean we should knock it down). Most new roofs are only guaranteed for 20 years. Dunelm House's roof is 51 years old, and so like any other building it needs a new roof! Durham University has been aware of the leaky roof for over 10 years. Now is the time to fix it.
Q: It will cost too much to repair it. Isn’t it cheaper to just build new?
A: Durham University have carried out detailed estimations on the redesign and repair estimated at £14.7m. Dunelm House has a gross internal area of 3980sqm, making the refurbishment cost an estimated £3600 per sqm. That seems like a lot of money, but it is cheaper than the cost of Durham Universities new Ogden Center for Fundamental Physics (the new abstract timber building) which is costing £11.5m for 2,478 sq. m – that’s a whopping £4640 per sqm! Refurbishing the building could be cheaper than building new. A completely new building on Dunelm House’s site could cost millions more due to the cost of demolition and disposal to put Dunelm House into a landfill, not to forget the complexities of the site due to the topography, retaining walls, structures required and access issues that make this project site very complex – and as a consequence very costly!
Q: We want a shiny new building by some famous international starchitect. That will put Durham on the map and make it a world class city!
A: Durham is already a world class city, with a world class University. It has a diverse architectural grain from across the past millennium, and this includes the twentieth century. Durham University has been an amazing patron of modern architecture, particularly during the 1960s. So why undo that good work and lose it all now?
Yes, hire great architects with lots of imagination and creativity. BUT, please look at what other highly successful refurbishment projects of Modernist buildings there have been. Look at Park Hill refurbishment in Sheffield (Hawkins Brown) or the Barbican refurbishment in London (AHMM) completed in past 10 years. Both hugely successful developments, prestigious, award winning, high profile, world class buildings that simply recognise and celebrate the value of Twentieth Century Architecture. Go on Durham, you can do that too!
How it will be delivered
The petition will be delivered to Durham University Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor.