When the term ‘listed building’ is mentioned, one normally thinks of historic architectural treasures or places of exceptional grandeur; medieval castles, grand cathedrals and impressive churches, or historic homes where famous people lived long ago.
The notion that a building that was constructed between 1986 and 1989 might be added to this list might seem rather curious; still more so given its use as a leisure centre.
Above all, it might seem extraordinary that it would be a steel frame building, not a grand Georgian house made from sandstone blocks, or a Regency mansion with its stucco plaster, that should achieve such an accolade.
However, that is exactly what has happened to The Dome, a leisure centre in Doncaster that was once the largest of its kind in Europe. It has joined more conventional buildings in the area like Christ Church, The Corn Exchange, Bawtry Hall and Tickhill Castle in enjoying Grade II Listed status.
English Heritage, which has just published its National Heritage List roster of 16 newly listed buildings for 2023, said of the Dome: “The bold, geometric shapes, polished banded walls and dramatic steel frame blended Post-Modernist and High Tech motifs to create an eye-catching building.”
It was not the only building constructed in the second half of the 20th century to get a listing; a 1960s church in Lancashire and a house built between the 1960s and 1980s in Lincolnshire were also added, but the others were not steel frame buildings.
The Dome’s architectural qualities were recognised at an early stage. It won awards from the Royal Institution of British Architects (RIBA) in 1991 and both the International Olympic Committee and the International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities in 1993.
Of course, your own steel frame building needs might be somewhat more modest; building the largest leisure centre in Europe is not the sort of project that gets proposed every day. Indeed, the design and appearance may be unspectacular, the use distinctly functional and more for convenience than fun.
However, the basic features of a steel frame building; robustness, speedy construction (unless you want to fit water slides and heated pools inside) and basic functionality make them just what you need, whether it is a storage area, place of work, agricultural building or some other use. It may not get a Grade II listing, but it will do a superb job.
Of course, some much older buildings have had steel frames incorporated into their structure, far from all of which are listed buildings.
Among them, until earlier this year, was the Crooked House pub in Dudley, which famously tilted due to mining subsidence and was shored up in the 1950s using steel tie bars and buttresses.
However, despite its distinctive appearance and heritage value, it was not listed, a point that saw an attempt to correct this when the pub was put up for sale, shortly before its purchase for ‘alternative use’ and subsequent destruction in a suspected arson attack and demolition without council permission.
Thankfully, as a recent article in Country Living Magazine highlighted, many other listed heritage buildings are ‘crooked’ in their own way. Many of them are held in place by steel frames, like the Crooked House bookshop in Canterbury.