Last edited 15 Nov 2020

Dunelm House, Durham


Dunelm House is the student’s union building for Durham University, designed in the Brutalist style.

Located on the banks of the River Wear, the white concrete structure was completed in 1966 by the Architects’ Co-Partnership, engineered by Ove Arup. It is physically connected to the Grade I-listed Kingsgate Bridge, also designed by Arup, and considered by him to be one of the most important of his career.

The Brutalist building features heavy-angled facades of concrete, with a roof of large interlocking precast concrete u-units that form a 'broken' profile above the eaves. Inside, the five levels are linked by the main circulation space and staircase running in a straight line to create a stepped internal ‘street’.


In 2016 it was announced that the landmark, yet divisive, building could be demolished to make way for a new build.

The university estimated that the redesign and repair work necessary to make the building fit-for-purpose would cost £14.7 million, and have applied for a certificate of immunity from listing which would otherwise protect the building from demolition.

There is considerable opposition to the demolition proposal. Campaigners argue that refurbishing the building would cost much less than demolition and rebuilding from scratch. They point to other successful refurbishment projects of Modernist buildings such as Park Hill in Sheffield and the Barbican in London.

The Twentieth Century Society said: “We consider the award-winning Dunelm House to be a remarkably intact survivor of its era, historically and architecturally significant and to have group value with the beautiful Kingsgate Bridge adjacent.”

In November 2017, the Culture Secretary stood firm on her decision not to list the building, saying that it 'does not possess special architectural interest' and that it was ‘not stylistically or structurally innovative’.

In response the Twentieth Century Society said:

‘The Twentieth Century Society fundamentally disagrees with the minister’s conclusion that Dunelm House lacks architectural significance. The society considers that this is a unique building and surpasses any other of its date for its response to its setting.'

A petition ‘Saving Dunelm House’ can be found here.

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

Designing Buildings Anywhere

Get the Firefox add-on to access 20,000 definitions direct from any website

Find out more Accept cookies and
don't show me this again