Former bus station, Station Square, Milton Keynes
- Heritage Category:
- Listed Building
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Statutory Address:
- Former bus station, Elder Gate, Station Square, Milton Keynes
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- Statutory Address:
- Former bus station, Elder Gate, Station Square, Milton Keynes
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Milton Keynes (Unitary Authority)
- Central Milton Keynes
- National Grid Reference:
The former bus station, 1982-3, by Milton Keynes Development Corporation (MKDC), architects under Derek Yeadon, with structural engineer Felix J Samuely; contractors, Costains Construction. Walkways, ramps and parapet walls beyond the footprint of the bus station and its canopy are not included in the listing.
Reasons for Designation
The former bus station, 1982-3, by Milton Keynes Development Corporation (MKDC) architects, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: bus station in the form of a freestanding pavilion, that draws on seminal buildings by the acclaimed modernist architect Mies van der Rohe, whose ideology inspired the new plan for Central Milton Keynes and its buildings; * Structural interest: deep projecting canopy slung from exposed steel girders supported on lightweight steel columns; * Use of materials: core building clad in Cornish Granite and detailed to an unusually high standard for a bus station; * Plan: internal and external naturally-lit waiting areas, where built-in seating and tables are treated sculpturally; * Contextual interest: designed as part of the transport hub to serve the new town of Milton Keynes.
Milton Keynes is significant as the most ambitious new town to be planned and built in England during the post-war period following the New Towns Act of 1965. Designated as a new town in 1967, it was laid out on a grid plan that overlay or incorporated the established towns of Bletchley, Wolverton and Stony Stratford. The new town, from its infrastructure, through its principal buildings, to residential areas, was set out and designed by the Development Corporation (MKDC) under Derek Walker its chief architect. The centre was intended as a 'downtown strip', an American-style grid lined with sleek, urban buildings inspired by the philosophy and work of the acclaimed modernist architect Mies van der Rohe, and most successfully realised in the Shopping Building (Listed Grade II) which was the focus of the commercial centre of the town.
Initially Milton Keynes was served only by the existing stations at Bletchley and Wolverton. Station Square was laid out as the gateway to the new town, at the foot of Midsummer Boulevard, the main axial route through the town running from the railway station to the Shopping Building; the new station linking Milton Keynes with the intercity rail network. Whereas the Shopping Building was the focus of the commercial centre, ‘the station was the key to opening up the western end [of Milton Keynes] and establishing CMK (Central Milton Keynes) as a major employment centre.’ (Bendixson and Platt, 1992, 133-6). The Station Square and Station Building were designed by MKDC, the Station fitting out including the platforms, was designed by British Rail Architects, one third of the costs met by BR and two thirds by MKDC. For MKDC, the scheme was designed by MKDC architects Stuart Mosscrop, Derek Walker and Christopher Woodward; project architect David Hartley, assisted by Barry Steadman and Christopher Moxham; structural engineers Felix J Samuely. British Rail was responsible for the station concourse, footbridge and platform structures, the team comprising Jim S Wyatt, BR regional architect, and project architect John H Kitcher, assisted by Colin Eades.
The square was enclosed to the west, north and south by three commercial blocks: Station House, Phoenix House and Elder House: Station House contains the station concourse which leads to the footbridge, platforms and station buildings beyond it (the structures outside Station House not included in this assessment). The square acted as a transport hub, trains connecting with bus services served by a separate pavilion-like bus station, to the road grid and pedestrian walkways, and with parking behind the office blocks. The design responded to the brief for an uncluttered uninterrupted space where buses could park and people could circulate.
Bringing together facets of Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion (Spain) and IIT Crown Hall, Chicago (US), the pavilion-like bus station embraces the modernist, Miesian philosophy applied throughout the new town. It was considered by Building Design on completion to be a strikingly simple building of stunning quality. The bus station was commended by the Structural Steel Design Award in 1983, the judges commenting that the ‘mainly exposed steel frame provides an elegant and carefully made structure. The wide spans achieved with relatively light steel construction ensure minimum interface with passenger and vehicular circulation.' The Award entry also noted that the scale, form and structure were particularly important to its identity, avoiding ‘an unattractive roofscape’.
Bus station, in the form of a precisely calculated pavilion, designed by MKDC (Milton Keynes Development Corporation) architects Derek Yeadon and Robert de Grey with structural engineers Felix J Samuely; John Condon, Alan Marshall and Tom Scholar; contractors, Costains Construction. Estimated budget £1.5 m.
PLAN Designed to provide an interchange for bus passengers, a deep canopy sheltered both inside and outside waiting areas. Beneath it the two-storey building also included on the ground floor a snack bar, an information kiosk and booking office, a newsagents and public lavatories, all accessible to the disabled. United Counties Bus Company offices and staff facilities were placed on the upper floor. Buses drew up at diagonally-aligned bays on the northern side while they could also draw up on the Elder Gate frontage to the south.
Symmetrically placed ramped walks and steps at either end of the building connect the bus station with the town’s infrastructure of pedestrian walkways, the walkways defined by low parapet walls and dividers, between planters and beds. (Walkways, ramps and parapet walls beyond the footprint of the bus station and its canopy have not been assessed for listing.)
MATERIALS AND STRUCTURE The bus station comprises a double-height space beneath a roof suspended from steel girders supported on steel columns; steel was chosen to achieve a lightweight structure incorporating wide spans. A 4250 sq m (117m x 36m) steel-framed canopy is suspended from exposed steel frame girders supported on 20 specially manufactured steel columns bolted to pile caps. These carry ten, 36.2m long steel beams, each weighing 12.5 tonnes, welded on site at ground level from two sections. The beams are spaced at 12m centres with a span between columns of 21.6m and cantilevers of 7.3m. The suspended roof is covered in plasticised pvc sheeting. Beneath the canopy is an enclosed two-storey structurally independent core, clad in stacked laid rectangular grey granite panels.
EXTERIOR A deep canopy extends over a concrete paved podium which defines the extent of the bus station, the 'I' beams exposed at each end of the roof, which is supported on each elevation on slender square-section steel piers set back from the perimeter. Rectangular light wells in the canopy bring natural light to the external seating area. The steel girders which are exposed above the roof are visible from above but not at ground level or close proximity.
Of the two-storey building beneath the canopy, the end bays of the main elevations and eastern wall are blank and clad in granite blocks. The central six bays on both main elevations are defined by rectangular granite clad piers, set forward from a fully-glazed ground floor screen wall and door units to the concourse and waiting room, providing views out to the buses. Above, again on both elevations, the upper floor has continuous top-hung casement windows beneath shallow clerestory glazing, set flush with the façade and high beneath the roof. On the northern elevation the fenestration steps down to light the foyer at the head of an external steel stair, added when United Counties left the first floor, which gives access to the upper floor. Entrances on both elevations have sliding door units, altered from the original side hung automatic doors, opening on to the foyer and ticket office. The western end is also glazed, lighting an internal stairwell added again when United Counties left the first floor. The name 'Milton Keynes Central Bus Station' was applied to both main elevations, in lettering consistently used throughout Milton Keynes, but removed from the south elevation when the first floor windows were altered.
The external seating area at the eastern end has granite clad concrete benches with tile seats, set either side of low spine walls or seat backs.
The podium which defines the bus station, and distinguishes pedestrian from vehicular areas, is slightly raised above street level and indented on the northern side to define the bus bays. Steel frames set at an angle adjacent to the bus bays formerly supported travel information panels. To the east and west the podium merges with the paving to provide uninterrupted access to walkways.
INTERIOR The waiting room is fitted with solid timber tables, benches and seating lining the walls, supported on steel frames; the bench and table ends are channelled. The western and eastern original staircases are concrete with a grey terrazzo finish. The additional internal staircase at the western end is timber. Previous fixings suggest that the balustrade has been altered.
This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 07/09/2017
Books and journals
The Heritage of Milton Keynes: The Story of the Original CMK118-121
Bendixson, T, Platt, J, Milton Keynes Image and Reality , (1992)
'Building with Steel' in Structural Steel Design Awards 1983, (Dec 1983), 15, 23
'Architects' Journal' in New city inter-city , (2 June 1982 ), 40-42
'Architects' Journal' in All Stations for Milton Keynes , (17 March 1982), 41
'Building Design' in Midsummer modernism , (May 27 1983), 10
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
End of official listing