Coventry – The Precinct

Prior to the 1930s Coventry was a shining example of a well-preserved medieval city, but the damage it sustained during the war meant it had to be extensively rebuilt. Donald Gibson was appointed Coventry’s first City Architect and Planning Officer in 1938 at the tender age of 29. His plan involved completely rethinking the city centre in a radical design.

Local people took some convincing, but Gibson’s ideas were greatly admired by the architectural community. His plan wasn’t entirely realised, however, partly due to a lack of funding. This avoided the complete extinction of Coventry’s remaining medieval features, but it also meant some of his best designs were compromised. By the 1960s, Coventry was a model of modern, brutalist architecture – quite removed from its pre-war image.

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Central to those plans was a pedestrianised shopping precinct, new, expansive carefree and mercifully car-free.

Split levels deck access, the pride of Modern Britain.

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The future must be built, so it was.

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Whilst researching the visual history of the precinct, it became clear that it was one of the most celebrated modern architectural subjects for the post-war postcard market.

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They are a pure delight, the celebration of all that was new and good.

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The Locarno at the centre of the image was to later become the Central Library.

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Central to the new development was a rotunda café, pie in the sky.

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So a precinct well used, and loved, designed and realised with an integrity, a clean modern aesthetic and lively functionality – Coventry Precincts and the gentle folk of Godiva’s fair city – I salute you!

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