The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

National Sports Centre must be part of bigger scheme

Will the LDA save the building and restore the park?

The Twentieth Century Society have teamed up with Julian Harrap Architects to show how the threatened National Sports Centre at South London’s Crystal Palace Park could be saved. The remarkable building has been neglected but remains one of the very few 50m pools in the South of England. Therefore it is undoubtedly worthy of its listed status.

The London Development Agency are running a competition for a new sports centre in Crystal Palace Park which could mean the end of the NSC. On the other hand the LDA’s involvement could be a fantastic opportunity for further integration of the Sports Centre into the park and bring back to life the park’s rich and varied history.

Julian Harrap’s scheme shows the Sports Centre as a single structure within the re-created landscape of the Victorian park. The C20 Society believes that the NSC could be turned into a pavilion whose great hall should either be retained as existing with a new pool or alternatively converted to non-swimming sports use. The demolition of the peripheral less significant buildings and much of the tarmac surrounding will enhance the natural elements of the park.

Beside the re-created Victorian landscape the park will incorporate several layers of sports history like the memory of the former football pitch or the reinstatement of the former motor racing circuit as access armature.

The site of the new sports stadium has been located over the footprint of the archaeological remains of the Crystal Palace above the surviving terrace. The new building will respect and protect the archaeological remains of the Palace and is capable of providing financial subsidy to the sports facilities in the park.

The C20 Society is supported by other National Amenity Societies and by Channel 4s Naomi Cleaver.

“Crystal Palace Park has been a place of popular recreation since the 1850s when it became the new home of Sir Joseph Paxton’s iron and glass masterpiece. The Victorian Society believes that imaginative plans for the country’s most important municipal park are long overdue and we would encourage the LDA to take a holistic approach to this historic landscape. As a conservation body we could not, in principal, support demolition of the Grade II* listed National Sports Centre.”

“No landscape brings together so many layers of national sporting history as Crystal Palace. The Garden History Society recognises the importance of the National Sports Centre and believes it would be neither practical or desirbale to reinstate the C19 Paxton layout of the park. The park today is depressing and barren and the C20 Society/Harrap proposals offer a well balanced way forward.”

“The Crystal Palace Sports Centre is Grade II* listed for a reason and that’s because it’s a majestic, grand building that has served the community magnificently. Just because it is in need of refurbishment do we really need to knock it down and start again? Surely this is throwing the baby out with the bathwater, not to mention even more costly. And haven’t we already lost enough of our architectural heritage in this part of London? Finally, with the Olympics in London there’s hardly a dearth of sports oriented new build projects – let’s enrich London’s collection of sports facilities by juxtaposing the best of the old with the best of the new.”

The C20 Society hopes to encourage the LDA to take a broader view on Crystal Palace park; its best building must be saved and its tremendously important history be brought back – those two aims can be achieved and could mean the end of the park’s plight.

For further information please contact:
Cordula Zeidler, Caseworker,
The Twentieth Century Society, 020 7250 3857

Notes for editors:

The NSC was built as the first national sports centre in the country to designs by the LCC’s Architects Department under Leslie Martin and Hubert Bennett and opened in 1964. The NSC is listed at Grade II*.