All about an elephant shaped building in Coventry.
Only an architecturally ambitious local council could have conceived Coventry’s Elephant Sports Centre.
Required to span across a street and stand on four legs, it warranted an extraordinary design.
It was built as an extension to the Coventry Central Baths which had been opened in 1966.A ‘trunk’ connected the two buildings.
It’s a stark contrast in style… although the Elephant is in delightfully stark contrast to any style…
Which is why I am captivated by this aluminium clad hump of a sports centre.
For the bravery of those who designed and approved it. For its eye-catching uniqueness.
The craters of a West Midland city, devastated by Luftwaffe pilots, needed a visionary plan to fill them in. Fortunately imagination was given a free rein during those heady, optimistic post-war days.
There were five floors of sports facilities. The first two floors housed a bowling green, squash courts and a practice area (for rifle shooting, table tennis and other sports). At the top is a three storey sports hall for football, fencing and boxing.
Five floors for sports. Can you imagine today, when healthy living is beyond the reach of so many, a council having the funds and foresight to build something like this?
The Elephant was completed in 1976 and closed in 2020. A petition has saved it from demolition (for now) and the council are looking for someone to rent it.
The elephant shape is a reference to the city’s coat of arms which depicts Coventry Castle being carried on the back of an elephant.
Coventry Central Baths was Grade II listed in 1997 and so is safe from demolition. The 20th Century Society’s application to have the Elephant listed was sadly refused.
In this week’s Observer, David Olusoga laments the closure of the Gateshead Leisure centre due to funding cuts. What a waste.