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A Look Back at Spire House and Christchurch House

With the submission of the planning application for the new Water Park on New Union Street, Coventry Society member and architect Angus Kaye takes a look at the buildings that face demolition to make way for it. Angus writes:

“The initial plans for the above Water Park look very promising and should provide a modern, exciting and versatile city centre attraction for the People of Coventry and visitors to the City.

"The proposed building will occupy the site adjacent to The Spire which currently is occupied by The City Council’s Spire and Christchurch Offices. Whilst these buildings await likely demolition, I would recommend a closer look at these existing buildings as they are no ordinary office blocks.

Spire House and Chriistchurch House

"Designed by Rex Chell and his team in the City Architects Department in the early 1970’s, the office complex is arranged on a square site, around a central courtyard with a recessed ground floor. The buildings vary in height between 3 and 7 public floors and this is a difficult design requirement to pull off without the building looking uncoordinated (boxy) and rather like a poorly constructed castle.

"The designers resolved this by providing horizontal bands of brickwork that wrap around the building and curve at the corners. This horizontal emphasis is also reflected in the bands of windows, which project from the main face of the building.

Spire House detail

"Whilst the design is so original, it reflects elements of the1920s and 1930s ‘International Style’ with possible references to Eric Mendelsohn, Alvar Alto and JJP Oud.

"As you pass by, please look at some details:


  • Look at the excellent brickwork, which follows the curves of the building and has recessed (raked) horizontal joints to reflect the banding.
  • See also the wall tiling on the recessed ground floor areas, although perhaps the entrance door detail is a little overplayed for present tastes.
  • Experience how quiet the central courtyard is, although it is right in the City Centre."


 Time moves on and we recognise the need for these buildings to go, but it would be a shame if we didn't acknowledge the quality of the design and understand the social context of when the buildings were constructed; a time when public services were more highly regarded than they are today and the public sector often led the country in architectural design. We hope that the Council will record the buildings before they are demolished.  

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