Swindon leisure centre that inspired Oasis on at-risk buildings list

Twentieth Century Society praises ‘fantasy structure’ as it highlights top 10 properties in danger

A space age-like leisure centre that inspired Liam Gallagher to name his band Oasis, instead of The Rain, has been placed on a top 10 list of 20th-century British buildings most at risk.

Oasis leisure centre in Swindon is on a list published every two years by the Twentieth Century Society, highlighting threats to more recent architectural heritage. Top of the list is Coventry’s Bull Yard shopping precinct, while other buildings include City Hall in London and Swansea civic centre.

The leisure centre occupies an interesting – if not very rock’n’roll – place in British pop history in that Gallagher thought it a better name for a band he had just joined. It seems to be as simple as him liking the name after seeing it listed as a venue on an Inspiral Carpets tour poster in the bedroom he shared with his brother Noel.

Noel, a roadie for Inspiral Carpets, soon joined the band and it was Oasis, not The Rain, which became one of the biggest bands in British music history.

The leisure centre is also “of national architectural significance,” said the society. Described as a “fantasy structure” Oasis has pools, waterslides and a 45m “flying saucer” transparent dome. The society described it as a “rare and important survivor” of municipal leisure centres created for fun and families rather than training and competition.

Inside the pool at the centre.
Inside the pool at the centre. Photograph: Nick Osborne/Alamy

It was announced last year that the centre would not reopen after the pandemic with plans for it to be part of a £270m redevelopment which include a ski centre. That would involve some demolition which the society opposes. It has moved to protect the building with a listing application.

The Bull Yard shopping precinct in Coventry is top of the society’s list because of a proposed 15-acre city centre redevelopment plan. The council argues it is attempting to make Coventry fit for the 21st century but campaigners are calling for repair, not demolition.

The Bull Yard in Coventry is top of the society’s at-risk list.
The Bull Yard in Coventry is top of the society’s at-risk list. Photograph: Fabio De Paola/The Observer

Coventry is this year’s UK city of culture presenting, said Catherine Croft, director of the Twentieth Century Society, “a brilliant opportunity for the council to showcase its post-war buildings but sadly it has largely ignored our concerns as it continues to show an appalling disregard to its duty to properly protect the city’s important post-war architectural heritage”.

The Norman Foster-designed City Hall in London.
The Norman Foster-designed City Hall in London. Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP

City Hall, the distinctive Norman Foster-designed glass building that opened near Tower Bridge in London in 2002, is at risk, say campaigners, because the mayor, Sadiq Khan, is relocating the Greater London Authority to the Royal Docks in Newham.

Swansea civic centre, an imposing brutalist-style building constructed in two phases between 1979 and 1984, has been earmarked for demolition as part of a city centre and waterfront regeneration plan.

Swansea civic centre has been earmarked for demolition as part of a plan to redevelop the waterfront.
Swansea civic centre has been earmarked for demolition as part of a plan to redevelop the waterfront. Photograph: Athena Picture Agency/Alamy

The society said only one 20th-century Welsh county hall was listed, the Shire Hall in Newport built in 1902, “compared with multiple listed 19th-century examples. The C20 Society is strongly opposed to demolition and has submitted an application to have the building listed at Grade II.”

Other buildings in the top 10 are The Lawns halls of residence at the University of Hull; the former headquarters of the London Electricity Board in Bethnal Green; the Cressingham Gardens housing estate in Tulse Hill, south London; Derby Assembly Halls; Shropshire council’s modernist headquarters, Shirehall, in Shrewsbury; and Halifax swimming pool and its ceramic murals depicting British pond life.

The society said there was little good news from the 10 cases on the lprevious list in 2019. Two buildings have been demolished and there are, as yet, no positive outcomes for the others.


Mark Brown Arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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