The upper walls of the shops are illuminated at night by a series of designs in neon tube. The represent Coventry's industries and are in combinations of coloured tubes. The first four panels, originally on the south block, represent the car, watch, textile and cycle industries. The second group of panels, originally on the north side, represent the electrical, aircraft and machine tool industries and space research. When the second group of panels were ready to be installed, two panels from the south side were swapped with two intended for the north to balance the composition.
As now installed, on the south side the panels depict the cycle, electrical , watch and space research industries. On the north side they represent the aeronautical engineering, car, machine tool and textile industries.
The city architects department had planned that the upper parts of the shops should have some form of decoration on them and let the shops subject to these panels being free of advertising. The form of decoration was chosen by Arthur Ling, the city architect, as a way of enlivening the precinct at night. Neon was adopted for reasons of cost and the panels were to be originally to be restricted to the south block for the same reason. Ling designed the panels, the first four of which were ready by 1958, the final four being installed in 1961.
On 5 February 1958 the Planning and Redevelopment Committee asked the City Architect to investigate the possibility of using neon to illuminate these decorative panels, multiple rows of electric light bulbs already have been rejected as too expensive.(1) A month later the Committee rejected the City Architect's proposal that the neon panels should be contemporary designs depicting the elements in favour of designs based on the industrial history and life of Coventry.(2)
PMSA recording information