The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Live Forever: Swindon’s Oasis Leisure Centre listed Grade II

Under the dome: The shelving lagoon pool, learners pool, waterslides, GRP rocks and planting troughs. Principal features that survive from the original scheme.

Image: Historic England

The Twentieth Century Society is thrilled to learn that Historic England and the Department for Culture Media and Sport have accepted our application for the Oasis Leisure Centre in Swindon to be Grade II listed.

Designed by architects Gillinson Barnett & Partners (GBP) and built in 1976, the Oasis is defined by its space-age 45 metre aluminium framed dome – the largest of its type in Europe and the only remaining example in the UK.

The centre also has its place in pop cultural history, with Liam Gallagher alleging this was the inspiration behind the name of one of Britain’s favourite bands.

Oasis Leisure Centre under construction, 1972. The 45 metre dome is the largest of its type in Europe and the only known example remaining in the UK.

Image: Otto Saumarez Smith

The Oasis has been closed to the public since October 2020, with previous operators GLL blaming the “challenging operating conditions” amid the coronavirus pandemic and surrendering their lease on the building. Meanwhile developers Seven Capital (which has a 99 year-lease on the site itself) have tabled redevelopment proposals, which would see the iconic dome demolished.

The Twentieth Century Society objected to these proposals, submitted a listing application to Historic England in December 2020 and included the Oasis in our top 10 ‘Buildings at Risk’ register for 2021. This comes amid growing concerns about the future of leisure centres and public recreational facilities across the country, with local authorities seeking to cut back on all non-essential services.

Particular credit in this case must also go to the ‘Save Oasis Swindon’ campaign group; a grassroots community organisation led by local residents, who have tirelessly petitioned for their valuable local amenity to be re-opened and its architectural significance recognised.

Oasis Leisure Centre under construction, 1972

Image: Otto Saumarez Smith

The centre is separated into a ‘wet side’ (containing leisure pools and extensive waterslides under the dome) and a ‘dry side’ (for sports and recreation activities), with the two being connected by the changing rooms, entrance hall and restaurant. We note that the listing only covers the dome and the ‘wet side’, with surveys having found it to be ‘in reasonable structural order considering its age’. We will closely monitor future plans for the centre, making the case for both elements to be sensitively and sustainably modernised.

Moreover, we look forward to working constructively with Seven Capital, Swindon Borough Council, Save Oasis and all stakeholders on developing the next stage of their plans to reopen and renew the Oasis, in light of this listing decision.

Image: Karl Webb

Catherine Croft, Director of Twentieth Century Society:

‘As leisure centres and local recreation facilities across the country are facing an uncertain future, the news that the Oasis in Swindon has been Grade II listed is cause for celebration.

Its ambitious design prioritised public leisure, health and wellbeing, and has served Wiltshire well for 45 years. The prospect of this architecturally significant amenity being lost spurred a grassroots campaign from concerned local residents, which has ultimately led to it being awarded national protection.
With investment and imagination from the operators to address its current condition, we look forward to a renewed Oasis centre of which Swindon can continue to be proud.

In their listing report, Historic England credited the Oasis for its:

‘sophisticated and architecturally striking structure’ with an ‘aluminium spaceframe [that] is carefully detailed and exhibits clear engineers virtuosity.’

‘Principal features and structure survive well’ despite reglazing, adding that original features such as the shelving lagoon pool, separate learners’ pool, GRP rocks, and planting troughs all remain.

They commended the centre for creating a ‘Mediterranean or Caribbean atmosphere…a fun family holiday in the sun, albeit undercover’