We live near the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre and I’ve started swimming there.
There is much to be written about this architecturally and socially. This is just a quick blog post, so lower your expectations accordingly.
Designed by LCC Architects Department under Sir Leslie Martin between 1953–54 it opened in 1964 as part of some grand plan. It is still a fantastic facility to have locally and it provides a valuable service but it has been neglected with hints everywhere to its former ambitions, like the rest of the park.
It’s a fantastic looking building from the outside and full of big ambitious spaces inside. As wikipedia says, “It has a particularly interesting interior: there is a central concourse with a complex and delicate exposed concrete frame supporting the roof, which has a folded teak lining”.
Participating in any sporting activity there is a very odd experience.
The commercialism needed to keep it going results in moments which when combined with the usual faded glories of municipal sports centre jar with the modernist vision.
It’s an incredibly strange budding to put a sports centre in. It feels more like a concert hall, and when I discovered LCC designed the Festival Hall that made a lot of sense. There’s the same large scale but also the odd disconnected nature of the buildings and the slight unease that you’re lost wherever you are. There are three swimming pools; one you have to leave the building to get to.
What is needs is a billionaire modernist architecture fan to restore it and then operate it in a way it’s still viable to go swimming for for £2.85.