14th April 2021

Latest news from the Save the Oasis Campaign

Swindon's Oasis - the Last of Its Kind

Swindon’s Oasis – the Last of Its Kind
The ongoing Campaign to not only reopen, but preserve the iconic aesthetics of Swindon’s Oasis Leisure Centre continues.

This week a practising architect with links to the original 1970s Oasis architects, contacted Save Oasis Swindon via social media. Robert Guy, of Bristol-based Arturus Architects, has thrown his full support behind the ongoing listing application with Historic England. He has personally written to them, urging for the Oasis to received listed status.

As an undergraduate Mr Guy visited the Oasis on a project. That visit that inspired him to work in leisure architecture. Indeed, he went on to design Bracknell’s Coral Reef complex.

Tweet from Mr Guy - Swindon's Oasis - the Last of Its Kind

Letter to Historic England

In his letter to HE, Robert spoke of the proposals made to replace the Oasis dome.

‘It’s my belief that there must be a way to retain this unique feature. We have more lightweight materials available than when it was built. And, if it is structurally sound, it can be clad to give a much better thermal performance than it had. 

The type of material used for the Eden project would be a most suitable material as it’s lightweight and easy to use. I would think that polycarbonate would also be suitable and can’t see why it didn’t give an uplift in the thermal performance when used six years ago. I suspect that the budget set aside to replace the original panels was too little.  I’m sure there will be other materials which would need some research. From recollection the original panels were custom formed to each row.

‘At a time where keeping and reusing is being promoted as the best way of preserving the embodied carbon within a building, it would make sense to keep this building. I understand that the building is at risk of demolition without the listing.

The pool too

Mr Guy went on to say in his later that the pool is also worthy of listed status. ‘There are fewer examples of wave pools in operation and again they may disappear entirely.’

‘Because most local authorities have to use outside companies to run the facilities of this type and they are principally set up to operate as fitness centres, the operation of leisure pools is regarded as being too expensive and outside their core business. This has led to the closure of many of buildings of this type and a loss of facilities much appreciated by the general public. The few that remain have become centres which serve a wide catchment. The Oasis is such a building. 

He added: ‘The Oasis is the last remaining example of a leisure pool from the 70s – all others have suffered demolishment or substantial changes. It also happens to be the best example that embodies the aims of the originators and is unique in its form. If this building is not retained, then the whole building type will have disappeared.’

Working hard to save the Oasis

Save Oasis Swindon have worked hard to keep the Oasis issue in the spotlight. The building has suffered numerous break-ins recently, and the campaign has conducted its own regular patrols of the site. 

The outcome of the listing will determine if the Oasis is preservable in its current form, as the last surviving example of a major pioneering British Leisure Centre. 

In a recent article for the Swindon Advertiser, the head of Swindon Borough Council, Councillor David Renard stated: 

‘I for one, will be keeping my fingers crossed Historic England does not grant it listed status because it is time to give the Oasis a new lease of life.’

Yet, both Historic England and the 20th Century Society have refuted that statement, assuring our campaign that listing would not hinder refurbishment. Indeed, on the contrary, listed buildings can access funding sources that exist only for such structures.

The Oasis is Swindon’s heritage. Further it’s the last of its kind.

Thus demolishment of this structure will constitute cultural vandalism comparable to killing the last butterfly.

Demolish the dome and you wipe out an entire typography of building!

See also my Swindon in 50 More Buildings post that I keep updating as the campaign finds new information: