Prifysgol Aberystwyth University – Penglais Campus SY23 3AH
Led by London Welshman Hugh Owen, a small group of patriots sought from the 1850s onwards to raise enough money by public and private subscription to establish a college of university status in Wales. A project of enormous ambition, the University opened its doors in 1872 initially with a handful of teachers and just twenty five students in what was then a half-finished hotel building – the Old College on the seafront.
The first decade presented many challenges for the University’s survival. The generosity of a few individual benefactors and organised appeals for support from the ordinary people of Wales kept the University in being, and, perhaps more importantly, deeply rooted it in the minds and the affection of the Welsh people. A matter of considerable pride is that the University has made a significant contribution to the education of women, being one of the first institutions to admit female students.
Since those early days, Aberystwyth University has gone from strength to strength and now has more than 6,000 students and 2,000 staff. As the institution grew, its main campus moved from Old College on the seafront to Penglais Hill. This finely landscaped site enjoys spectacular views over the historic market town of Aberystwyth and the Cardigan Bay coastline. New buildings, including major arts and science developments, halls of residence, a magnificent Arts Centre and sports facilities are located here.
1947 and the site is developing behind the National Library of Wales.
In 2023 we closely encounter – the Visualisation Centre Mathematics and Physics Department
Opened in 2007 – designed by Boyes Rees Architects.
Sadly a Welsh architecture practice which has ceased trading under the burden of late payments, leading to the loss of forty jobs.
Its near neighbour is the Cledwyn Building – Architect: Sir Percy Thomas 1883-1969.
It has recently been Grade II listed.
In 1935 Percy Thomas prepared a plan for the layout of a new campus, and was appointed as architect for the first three buildings to be constructed – Cledwyn, Pantycelyn and the swimming bath. This marked the beginning of the move away from the college by the sea to the college on the hill.
Built in a simple Georgian modern style, faced with Forest of Dean stonework, the building’s main entrance features a broad architrave adorned with low reliefs of agricultural scenes, and there are decorative circular stonework emblems in between the windows of the upper floor.
The carved stone work is by David Evans.
A Manchester-born sculptor who attended the Manchester School of Art, and won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art. After active service in the World War I, he resumed his studies at the Royal Academy, where he was instructed by Francis Derwent Wood. In 1922, he won the Landseer Prize and later went to work in the British School at Rome. He had been exhibiting at the Royal Academy since 1921. His works from the 1920’s are mainly highly stylised religious and mythological themes.
During his stay in the United States, he executed some significant work for public buildings in New York. The locations there included Rockefeller Center, Radio City, Brooklyn Post Office, a bank on Wall Street, St Thomas’s Church on Fifth Avenue.
Here are the four decorative panels placed higher on the building.
Next to the Llandinam Building
Seen here under construction in 1963
On completion in deep winter.
Tucked away at the back is this decorative concrete relief lacking attribution but gaining an ashtray.
Backtracking now to the Physical Sciences Building completed in 1962 and opened in 1963 – Sir Percy Thomas Partnership
August 1st 1962: Arthur Chater
Immortalised in this elegant educational stamp set – designed by Mr Nicholas Jenkins of the Royal College of Art
To the right of the entrance this striking mosaic – action is ossified in the manner of a semi-permanent Pollock.
Aberystwyth Arts Centre is one of a number of campus buildings designed by Dale Owen of Percy Thomas Partnership, and completed in 1970-1972.
Built to a strongly horizontal design using grey granite aggregrate, the facade is essentially an overhanging rectangle framing of glass with an off-centre overhang. The position of the building providing unobstructed panoramic views over the main piazza style concourse and the sea beyond.
Ribapix: Stewart Bale 1970
Let’s take a look inside the Arts Centre – to the right an exceptional collection of ceramics.
At its inception the reception area – an exemplary example of integrated interior design and architecture.
Ribapix: John Maltby 1970
David Tinker’s striking cast aluminium relief.
David began lecturing at Cardiff College of Art, later teaching and holding administrative posts at University College of Wales in Aberystwyth, retiring in 1988 as director of the department of visual art.
David Tinker was prominent in so many aspects of the visual arts in Wales throughout the second half of the 20th Century as a painter, sculptor, teacher, and stage designer.
Tinker is perhaps best known as one of three originators of the 56 Group with Eric Malthouse and Michael Edmonds, the new generation of young artists in Wales who were interested in modernism and keen to ally themselves to the international art world.
The 56 Group had no manifesto and for the most part they acted as an exhibiting co-operative; not all were abstract painters and their work was stylistically very different from one another, but all shared radical ideals. Their orderly revolt against the establishment was unique in the history of art in Wales.
They championed abstraction and allied themselves to European and American modernism, at a time when painters in Wales were being commended for recording the urban, rural and industrial face of Wales and its inhabitants.
As might be expected, the art establishment more readily accepted 56 Group avant garde works, and those artists who had been achieving some success as painters of the contemporary scene suddenly found themselves side-stepped, and labelled parochial.
The period 1966-1974 saw in his paintings a move toward hard-edged abstraction in which Tinker employed geometry-based structures, simple arithmetical problems, colour mixed from a restricted palette, and gentle tonal gradation.
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