Sunday, 3 August 2014

The Caledonian Gymnasium

The Caledonian Gymnasium
Architect: Bill Hesson
Opened:September 1959

Upper Facade: Curtain Wall

Tucked away between a bowls club, The Warehouse, carparks and a busy road, the Caledonian Gymnasium seems shabby, uncared for and awkwardly poised, too close to the street.

The building itself is not beautiful, but I feel that its surroundings do it no justice. You can’t see a thorn from all the other thorns, and so the building lives it’s life, unassuming and unnoticed by many.

The structure is rectangular with a slightly pitched roof. The sides are made of red brick and grey cinder block, the expanse interrupted only by a single brown aluminium glass door and adjacent window.

The rear of the building reveals an exterior balcony, with a staircase at each end, panels of red and blue, windows and vents line the second story.

Balcony and rear facade

The frontage must be viewed from the other side of the street because a very large awning, ensures that it cannot be seen from the run-down entrance. Above the awning, the front facade is constructed entirely of windows, the view into the interior obscured by shabbily hung curtains.  In the centre of the glass expanse hangs a large maroon panel, featuring the figures of two gymnasts, the only obvious clue to the purpose of the building.

Front Facade: A visual clue to the building's purpose
Lower front facade: peeling paint and red brick.

Inside, the ground floor features a sparse foyer, an elegant open staircase at the far end, change rooms and toilets on either side.

Upstairs, the large sports court and grandstand are dominated by the yellow of varnished pine, cinder block upper walls, and the retro pattern of the curtains lining the glass front. Red pipes under the grandstand benches reveal the heating system of the building, fed from a boiler on the ground floor.

The decor is original and dated, and therein lies its charm. You can imagine the local sports teams of the 1970s being cheered on by family and friends here.

Interior window of stairwell
Ground floor fire exit

Originally the building was part of a larger complex, featuring an athletics track, cycling track, playing grounds and spectator grandstand, but these were demolished in 2000 in order to make way for commercial development. Sadly, the gymnasium may be heading for the same future, with the local council currently considering whether to upgrade the gym or create new facilities in a new location.  

Amanda Konyn

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