In my opinion: Save Truro police station – brutalist building of quality
The post-War period gave rise to perhaps the most important and visually distinct change in architecture since the adoption of Palladian principles during the Renaissance. It is good to see at last (as reported in WMN Sept 26) news of a celebration of brutalism – an architectural approach which has changed our use of space, our understanding of buildings and our relationships with materials. Brutalism has shaped our age.
How interesting too to find examples of Brutalist architecture being selected from Cornwall – a place where architects have sought, creatively and with distinction, to make modern statements that reflect and contribute to landscapes and a cultural environment which is one of the strongest and most enduring in the world.
And then I consider with great sadness the imminent fate of Truro Police Station – in my view an exceptionally successful Brutalist statement in a public space that discreetly relates to the civilly engineered elegance of the Tregolls Road, Boscawen Bridge, Morlaix Avenue infrastructure scheme – each is part of the other, and the overall effect must also be seen to include the Roman Catholic Church (sadly but not irrevocably tinkered with in recent times).
An application to list this building was rejected on the grounds that the building did not match the architect's original scheme. This was because, excavating behind its Victorian counterpart, which kept working throughout the works, the site's geology threw up practical problems which the architect overcame by adapting his scheme to its situation without sacrificing the architectural principles which underpinned its design – this is more of a practical achievement than the failure conveniently concluded by EH.
Why convenient? Because the Police Authority has decided to dispose of its single site, secure quarters in Cornwall's busiest town, with a planning consent to demolish it to be replaced by residential care blocks (beside our busiest roundabout!) and to split its operations between two (and possibly three) buildings, to give up direct access to the A-road network, and its secure parking compound (using, instead, rented spaces in a nearby car park!).
High time that Truro Police Station was saved by an act of aesthetic mercy; high time too that we de-merged the Cornish Police Force and set about merging the Cornish Police, Fire Brigade and Ambulance Service (and the Coastguard!) into a resilient Cornish emergency service which understands its geography and serves its community – Goredhon Kernow