The David Murray John Building, Swindon.
Completed in 1976, this forms, with the associated Brunel Centre, the centre piece of the town. It's also, beyond much doubt, the most recognisable part of Swindon even to those who have never stopped there, being visible from many miles away on almost all the approaches. Two hundred and seventy feet high (83 metres) it dwarfs everything around it, including even the new, high-rise constructions to the south of the town centre.
It's one of those buildings, like London's Canary Wharf, which is so massive in relation to its surroundings that it is almost invisible to the casual eye. Perhaps the mind considers such buildings in the same way as it relates to mountains or cliff faces - features of the environment to be ignored in everyday living and only admired from a distance.
Indeed, the best way to appreciate 'The Tower' is from one of the surrounding hills or from a train on the approaches to Swindon. Only then can the sheer bulk of the building be seen in its true relationship to the rest of the town. It's very reminiscent of the way in which the keep of an old castle like Edinburgh dominates its surroundings and all the more remarkable in that the DMJ building is not on elevated ground.
This image was, according to the record, a deliberate feature of the building which was intended, from the outset, to form a unifying central feature for Swindon's New Town. It also provides considerable acccomodation. There are 72 flats in the top 17 floors with 4 floors of office space below.
On completion the building had cost a total of two million pounds, a considerable investment in the 'seventies, and had taken just two years from contract to opening.
Does it Succeed?
Overall, the building is not without merit in cultural terms, the rounded edges of the twin wings giving an impression of modernity even in the twenty-first century. Providing both office accomodation and low cost living space, the 'Swindon Tower' as it is much more generally known, has to be judged something of a success.
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