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Norman Foster hails conversion of his Renault building into kids’ play centre


Norman Foster has expressed his ‘delight’ at the conversion of his landmark Renault building in Swindon into a Kidz About play centre

With its bright yellow ‘umbrella masts’ critics described the futuristic distribution centre as Foster + Partners’ most playful structure when it opened in 1982.

Perhaps then, its metamorphosis into Swindon’s ‘premier play and party centre’ complete with climbing apparatus, multi-coloured slides and indoor bouncy castles should not come as too much of a surprise.

While some have expressed concern at the garish signage now adorning the grade II*-listed building, Foster told the AJ he was relaxed about its latest use.

‘We are delighted that the Renault building has proved flexible enough to accommodate a kids’ playground and hope that they are inspired by its design,’ he said.

Design for Homes boss, David Birkbeck, who spotted the building’s current tenant this week during a visit to the local area, said the new use seemed to be working well.

He said: ‘Its yellow structure will be very attractive to toddlers. It looked very comfortable for children to use and strangely enough connecting with them in a way which was never anticipated in the early 1980s.’

However, Catherine Croft, director of the Twentieth Century Society described the appearance of the grade II*-listed building as a ‘mess’.

The society campaigned for statutory protection of the building prior to its listing by English Heritage in 2013.

She added: ‘I guess if there are no major physical alterations then the building will survive and at some stage a use which sees its architectural qualities as a positive asset will become a more economically viable option. Meantime, maybe a generation of Swindon kids will be inspired.’

The high tech building famously appeared in the 1985 James Bond film, a View to a Kill.


Readers' comments (6)

  • Catherine Croft describes it as 'a mess' - but, unless the 'now' photos aren't telling the whole story, the new signage is surely not that disruptive?

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  • Typical hi tec needs arrows because there is no entrance indicated

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  • What's the difference between 'signing' and the more trendy word 'signage'?

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  • May the children and parents be inspired by being in this iconic building. Architects often complain the the public do not understand and this is an ideal opportunity for the public to become more aware. Signage can easily be changed.

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  • Chris Rogers

    Given how vast the bldg is inside - far far bigger and taller than it ever appears in pics - the kids must go missing/be scared..BTW no need for first comma in "Design for Homes boss, David Birkbeck, who spotted...".

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  • This alteration to the Renault Centre happened before it was listed. I visited in in April 2013 as part of ongoing research into the durability of architecture. The fabric we designed at Foster Associates is doing very well - despite little or no signs of maintenance including the neoprene skirt- movement joint at the head of the composite cladding.

    It the Kidz About's internal details that even more of a mess than the signage. However the energy of the children is wonderful. Its as if Cedric Price had organised an invasion. The rear half of Renault - the warehouse is occupied by a 'technology company' - TS Tech UK Ltd. All discussed with Julia Barfield another member of the Renault design team - who designed the showroom. Professor Michael Stacey

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