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

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