Known as the town where Lady Godiva rode through the town naked, Coventry has always been seen to be stuck in the past. Yes, there are some historic pieces of Architecture, but modern does exist.
Coventry Cathedral was built after the destruction of the 14th-century cathedral church of Saint Michael by the Luftwaffe in the Coventry Blitz of 14 November 1940. The Cathedral was a resurrection of faith, in religion and the city after the ruins. St. Michael’s Cathedral is Coventry’s best-known landmark and visitor attraction. The 14th-century church was largely destroyed by German bombing during the Second World War, leaving only the outer walls and spire. At 300 feet high, the spire of St. Michael’s is claimed to be the third tallest cathedral spire in England, after Salisbury and Norwich. Due to the architectural design, in 1940 the tower had no internal wooden floors and a stone vault below the belfry, it survived the destruction of the rest of the cathedral. The new Coventry Cathedral was opened in 1962 next to the ruins of the old. It was designed by Sir Basil Spence.
Coventry and Town Planning
Introduced Britain’s first shopping precinct, and the infamously hazardous switchback ride otherwise known as the inner ring road.
Coventry and the Motoring Industry
Its motor companies have contributed significantly to the British motor industry. In the late 19th century, Coventry became a major centre of bicycle manufacture. The industry energised by the invention by James Starley and his nephew John Kemp Starley of the Rover safety bicycle, which was safer and more popular than the pioneering penny-farthing. The company became Rover. By the early 20th century, bicycle manufacturer had evolved into motor manufacture, and Coventry became a major centre of the British motor industry. The design headquarters of Jaguar Cars is in the city at their Whitley plant and although vehicle assembly ceased at the Browns Lane plant in 2004, Jaguar’s head office returned to the city in 2011 and is also sited in Whitley. Jaguar is owned by the Indian company, Tata Motors.
The opening of the new £11.5m extension to the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, designed by architects Pringle Richards Sharratt, is the latest chapter in the transformation of key sites in the city centre. The Belgrade Theatre extension by Stanton Williams is a quietly graphic abstraction of surfaces and colours; the Lower Precinct shopping centre by Michael Aukett Architects is relatively clean-limbed; Arup Associates is designing an engineering and computing faculty at Coventry University; and MacCormac Jamieson Prichard – which designed the BBC’s new building in Portland Place, London – has transformed the three-hectare site that connects Coventry Cathedral with the Transport Museum, injecting the city with its most significant public art since the vivid creations of John Piper, Graham Sutherland, Jacob Epstein and John Hutton (not to mention engineer Ove Arup’s beautifully tapered ferroconcrete pillars) gave the new cathedral an extraordinary grace.