Thursday, April 25, 2019

Full of Western Promise

The ribbed walls, tangle of masts and the cross bracing all give the exterior of the Link Centre an energy reflective of the activities inside.

There are more places than you think it's possible to see the Link Centre from in West Swindon (or the Western Expansion to give the original name for the development). This is quite an achievement considering the level of tree cover for the district since the 1970s.

There are many architectural contradictions in West Swindon (two Chinese pagodas, for example), but the high-tech 1980s buzz of the Link Centre sits comfortably in the landscape, a stone's throw from suburban Bradley estates and ancient farmhouses.

The behind the scenes business of the leisure centre is prominent on the inside and outside of the Link Centre, from the emergency stairs, HVAC equipment and ducting. All 80s and showy.

Opened in 1985, it immediately became a leisure mecca, not just for the West, but also Swindon and the wider region. The in-house Thamesdown Borough Council design (by chief TBC architect K. P. Sherry) makes a confident statement on the landscape, with it's forest of uniform masts and ribbed exterior walls.

The uniform perimeter masts add a strong pattern to the building's outline on the skyline.

Much of the Link Centre's operational aspects are on the outside, reflecting the architectural themes of the time. The emergency exit staircases and ramps are picked out in bold green, along with the towers that hold the grey HVAC equipment blocks. Chimneys run up the side of the building, and vehicle access ramps and bays cut into the exterior wall from Link Avenue. This theme continues inside, with bare concrete walls, ventilation ducts and masts. The Lloyds Building, the Pompidou Centre and the Link Centre all show their functions and purposes through this approach. 

The footprint of the Link Centre still impresses, people regularly queued round the block to get in when it opened. It was the best equipped multi-purpose leisure centre in the UK, with a million visitors in it's first year.

At the Link Centre, there's no need to hide away that people are swimming, lets put windows on three sides of the pool! In true 1980s style, let's show it all off!



Swindon Web

Friday, March 29, 2019

46 Years at the Centre of Swindon

The Plaza overall roof. The engineering influence of railway station train sheds can clearly be seen.

Today marks the 46th birthday of the Brunel Shopping Centre. It's importance to Swindon cannot be underestimated, it sits at the physical heart of the town centre.

Architecturally, it still impresses, if you take the time to look. From the delivery spirals on Farnsby Street and Commercial Road, to the smart overall roof above the Plaza, the echoes of railway station engineering in it's design still sound through.

The roof design : simple, elegant and substantive. The blue skies and white cloud mixes with the floor tiling on the Plaza below.

Practically for shoppers it gives lots of walking routes, in whichever direction you might be going. Modern planners and architects are keen (as are clients and developers) to produce developments with effective permeability. The Brunel has been doing it well for nearly half a century!

The majority of the centre's walkways are lit by natural daylight. Even on cloudy days, natural light easily penetrates down to the ground floor.

With The Crossing, well cultivated mix of chains and independents, and good sense of retail theatre (the prominent new fruit and veg stall being the latest welcome move), this 46 year old is serving Swindon well.

Plus it has two architecture awards* under it's belt!

* RIBA South West Regional Award 1977 and the Constrado Steel Award 1978.


The Brunel Shopping Centre