Selection of 8 images from late 50s & early 60s capturing the essence (and elements) of what a fifties re-packaged and re-branded Coventry might re-incorporate - and use to differentiate itself as a cultural destination.. attracting a new (higher spending) retail/cultural visitor.
[Poss. positioning statements ->]
'Medieval-modern - with a beautifully restored, whimsical, 1950's shopping precinct at its core, Coventry is refreshingly different - plus its the easiest UK city to visit!'
'Yes - Coventry is now the UK's 2021 City of Culture in-waiting.. but really, why wait until then to explore this post-war architectural mecca?'
'Very photogenic, and definitely worth a visit - it's less than 150 miles from 95% of the largest UK population centres. Easy to reach - with easy places to park, and a train station just 55 minutes from London - Coventry is also appealing to a new breed of tourists, keen to chalk up a visit to an historic, increasingly fashionable city that defined Urban Style in the late 1950s/early 60s, and still has so many starkly original contrasts of Architecture, Industry, Creativity and Culture. '
1. What works here (apart from the obvious lack of tree canopy/uncluttered public realm vs todays market way) is the stubby blinds - very easy to re-instate as the copper receptacles and blind mechanisms are still intact. the limited colour palette/vertical stripes typify the 50s period. the dolcis shoe logo shows how effective a 'coventry' re-brand/logo could be in this context.
2. Obviously stylized, this early 50s artists impression (upper terrace of broadgate house) is interesting tho' as it again captures an urban boutique feel that the planners had in mind for coventry. open terraces, lack of clutter - this time using more traditional awning blinds to create a cafe feel.
3. Here's an illustration that appears in the ladybird book describing 'the city of the future' - it's another really interesting image. A pretty faithful copy of how coventry's upper precinct presented in the late 50s... a simple uncluttered colour scheme punctuated by big splashes of almost whimsical gaiety (and again, note the ever-present blinds on the upper tier) - softening the look and giving huge scope for relatively low-cost makeover.
4. Taken from present day site of centre point tower block, the very prominent artwork in what was then, a very open space, works nicely. This tree height works well, whereas the present day tree canopies make the space feel small and dark. Also note the striped stub blinds softening - and adding interest to - the FW Woolworths frontage.
5. From 1962; the regularised perspex display boxes, juxtaposed with chintzy neon signage above each shopfront is what make this such a striking image.. easy to replicate/re-introduce - (along with the super-effective use of downlighting, and simple paving - its been horrible geometric block paving since the late 80s) even a casual observer can clearly see the scope for repackaging coventry's city arcade as something really original - a genuine cultural destination, to be inspired by - not just for shopping.
6. I like this one particularly for the striking pattern of the lights set into small window boxes on the locarno ballroom (present day library - immediate left in the pic) - again a quick win as these apertures still exist.
7. The 50s planners didnt get it all right tho.. the rigid 'zoning' of areas ('shopping area', 'entertainment area', civic buildings area', 'light industrial area') doesn't work for a city centre. people like to see variety on a high street - and the absence of restaurants/bars/residential in the main precincts made these 'retail zones' dead areas after 6pm. Some effort was made later to introduce some late evening destinations (eg. the superbly original Three Tuns pub/restaurant - shown here in 1968) but this piecemeal effort never really worked - and a more determined strategy is needed today.
8. And finally, no, not the Precinct but loving the way this faithful rendition of the frontage of Coventry's 1965 municipal baths (you wouldn't recognize it now - overgrown, and overlooked) perfectly captures the unspoiled utopian vision motivating our planners back in the early post war years.
Clean lines, symmetry, uncluttered public realm.
A city, built, to inspire people.