Gwent House is the home of the District Council Offices for Torfaen and the Public Library. Used by HM Courts Service and HCMS – South East Wales, the building is a seven story structure with retail space on the ground floor and open plan office space above. Built during the 1970s as a local government building, it is constructed with a steel and concrete frame with wall to wall double glazed windows and a flat roof.
Gwent House sits on the east side of Gwent Square at the heart of Cwmbran New Town’s centre. The ‘Central Building’ as it was known during development was conceived by the Cwmbran Development Corporation, as a mixed development of leisure (including a club, dance hall and hotel) and office accommodation with retail to the ground floor. this was to expand the function of the town centre beyond purely a shopping centre, and to address the perceived lack of ‘professional’ office jobs. In the event, the offices proved difficult to let and were occupied by the CDC and Cwmbran Urban District Council.
The building was designed by Sheppard, Robson & Partners and opened on the 18th January 1973. The eight-storey, concrete framed block included a job centre, the library, a conference and exhibition hall, and three restaurants catering for different tastes and age ranges, including the ‘Sign of the Steer’.
On the west side of the building are a series of three moulded concrete relief panels designed by Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins for the MEPC, the Cwmbran Development Corporation and the Cwmbran Arts Trust in 1974. The panels depict scenes representing different phases of the history of Gwent: Iron Age and Roman, Medieval and Industrial.
The work of Joyce and Henry is well known here at the modern mooch having visited Newcastle, Bexhill and of course Stockport. There are also examples in their hometown Colchester, Gloucester and Southampton.
Joyce Pallot 1912-2004 and Henry Collins 1910-1994 – two artist/designers, who along with John Nash, established the Colchester Art Society, during the 1930s.
The square it seems is due to be revamped as part of the broader regeneration plans.
Literature displayed at the public consultation said improvements in Monmouth Square aim to -introduce colour into what is a lacklustre space.
A mix of pedestrianised terraces and low rise blocks, set in a loose grid of roads and rolling, tree-lined, grassed areas.
Over time there has been the addition of uPVC and the revisionist intrusion of the ahistorical carriage lamp.
Incidentally an area with more al fresco shopping trolleys than I had ever seen, I assume that the big Asda, located within walking distance of the homes, to be the progenitor of such a notable proliferation.
It remains, generally speaking a well kept lived in area – let’s take a look.
Taliesin (/ˌtælˈiɛsɪn/ tal-YES-in, Welsh: [talˈjɛsɪn]; fl. 6th century AD) was an early Brittonic poet of Sub-Roman Britain whose work has possibly survived in a Middle Welsh manuscript, the Book of Taliesin.
Taliesin is the home, studio, and 800-acre agricultural estate of Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright built Taliesin on his favorite boyhood hill, in the Wisconsin River valley homesteaded by his Welsh grandparents. He named it Taliesin in honor of the Welsh bard whose name means Shining Brow, reflecting his belief that the crown of the hill was reserved for nature, and that buildings should be constructed at the brow of the hill.
It is also a name commonly found on many of the common place dwellings of the Principality.
Tre-Taliesin is a village in Ceredigion nine miles south of Machynlleth.
The village is known for the Bedd Taliesin, a hilltop Bronze Age tumulus which is traditionally regarded as the site for the grave of the Welsh bard, Taliesin. It is listed as a Historic Monument. It is a round-kerb cairn with a cist about 2m long. The capstone has fallen; the side stone slabs are more or less in their original positions.
Which brings us to Taliesin Cwmbran a group of 58 flats located at the northern end of a road named Forgeside.
This development is something of an anomaly, breaking the mould of the conventional New Town housing which surrounds it.
Broadly Postmodern – with passing references to half timbered buildings, yet with more contemporary cladding. A wandering profile and angular roofline which echoes Hollywood Medievalism, paired with a fortress like enclosure of space and scaled down passageways.
So far no architectural attribution – any clues anyone?
Built between 1963 and 1967, the centre comprised 18 shops, a childrens playground, public toilets, a health and dental centre, and a combined public house and community centre. The unit centre was designed by Chief Architect of the CDC, Gordon Redfern, and was architecturally the most innovative and ambitious unit centre within Cwmbran New Town. To combat the exposed nature of the site together with the ‘high rainfall, mists and variable winds’ prevalent in the area, Gordon Redfern designed an enclosed, high-sided space that would physically and mentally shield shoppers during their visits. This protective environment extended to creating a central play area that could be viewed from the shops, allowing a more enjoyable experience for children. Four different shops types were provided on increasing floor footage for facilities ranging from barbers to grocery shop, all with storage to the first floor and eight, on the south-west side, with a two-bedroom maisonette above. To enhance the architectural impact of the scheme, Redfern created each unit on an hexagonal plan despite the inefficiences in floor space usage and additional costs in creating the fixtures and fittings. The CDC also fitted out each of the uits to a customised requirement – for example the Post Office unit was pre-fitted with a telephone booth, posting box, stamp machine and half-glazed panel for advertising services.
The structural engineers were Ove Arup & Partners, the builders were Gee, Walker & Slater. Construction costs for the scheme were estimated at £214,106. The unit centre was opened 12 September 1967, shared with the opening of Monmouth House, both undertaken by Rt. Hon. James Callaghan, M.P. A scathing article written the following month by architectural critic Ian Nairndismissed the design as a ‘kind of in-turned medieval village … an oasis of picturesqueness in a desert of statistical units’ designed for, rather than with, the inhabitants and therefore destined for commercial failure.
In 1949, the then Minister for Town and Country Planning, John Silken, designated an area of 31,000 acres surrounding the village of Cwmbran to be the first new town in Wales. Unlike the first generation new towns, the aim of Cwmbran was to provide housing and a range of facilities for those employed in existing industry but who lived in poor housing in the neighbouring valleys.
A master plan was implemented to achieve the objective for the town. However, as the town developed, the projected size of the town had to increase and many of the plans ideals were diluted as the Southwest expansion area was approved in 1977.
In fact, due to the planned nature of Cwmbran, there now exists few opportunities for new development within the town. This has meant intense development pressure on the outskirts of Cwmbran from house builders and developers.
On the day of my visit the centre was busy with happy shoppers happily shopping – there were major works underway in line with the town’s new plans.
Cwmbran has also prospered from having a vibrant retail core. The Shopping Centre has a fully pedestrianised, multi purpose centre with covered shopping malls. There are over 170 retail outlets covering a total area of 700.000 sq. ft, including a number of popular high street retailers, restaurants, a theatre and cinema. Accordingly, the town is now considered to be a sub regional centre, and the intention is that this retail focus will be increased by regeneration of the eastern side of the town.
Now 50 years on parts of the town are in need of renovation. Through various public and private partnerships the aim of the Cwmbran Project Team is to set out a 15 year strategy for the regeneration and development of the new town, and begin its implementation.
My primary interest concerned the public art in Monmouth Square – William Mitchell’s concrete clad lift shaft.
There is a water feature currently off limits and without the water that would elevate the feature to a fully functioning feature.
Plans proposed in 2018 could may herald the demise of this important public work of art.
Plans to level the water gardens in Monmouth Square at the Cwmbran Centre will be reviewed by Torfaen council’s planning committee.
The proposal also includes a modern café with a glazed front, the development of an events space to house farmers markets and street theatre and a green area.
Rebecca McAndrew, Torfaen council’s principal planning officer, said in the report that the water feature would be filled in and flattened as part of “an ongoing renovation programme”.
The application states that the area has a ‘weary and dated appearance’ and do not meet disability access requirements.
According to the report, the water gardens last flowed 13 years ago and its demolition would lead to further improvements at Wales’ second largest shopping centre.
The Water Gardens were designed by the CDC Chief Architect Gordon Redfern as a key visual and recreational element of the Town Centre. His focus was on combining different textures in the form of hard landscaping and planting, with the sense of movement and sound created by running water. At the upper end a pool, containing an artwork created from Pilkington Glass, was fed by a horizontal water jet which was in turn led by a small ‘canal’ to the lower, sunken garden. With water cascading down the southern retaining wall, consisted of moulded concrete sporting abstract geometric form, and variety of trees and shrubs, this formed an area for busy shoppers and families to relax and socialise.
The old Royal building opened in 1978 and has served the city ever since – despite ongoing infrastructure problems. Looking at the crumbling, unsightly building, it is clear why Liverpool is desperate for its sparkling new facility to finally open.
When the new build plans were first announced, the Trust stated: “Once the new hospital is constructed, our existing hospital will be demolished. In its place, there are plans to develop a world-class health campus, as well as landscaping green space, roughly the size of Chavasse Park.”
In January 2020, two years after Carillion’s collapse, a report from the National Audit Office, projected the overall costs of the new Royal could tip over the £1.1 billion mark. It also commented on the plans for the old building, stating: “Further work to demolish the old hospital and create a new underground car park and public plaza, was not included in the PFI project and is currently unfunded. The cost of this was not included in the PFI project and is currently estimated at £38 million.”
We are greeted by William Mitchell’s sliding door panels.
Let’s take a look inside.
Above is the tower with large areas of stained glass designed by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens in three colours – yellow, blue and red, representing the Trinity.
On the altar, the candlesticks are by RY Goodden and the bronze crucifix is by Elisabeth Frink. Above the altar is a baldachino designed by Gibberd as a crown-like structure composed of aluminium rods, which incorporates loudspeakers and lights. Around the interior are metal Stations of the Cross, designed by Sean Rice. Rice also designed the lectern, which includes two entwined eagles. In the Chapel of Reconciliation, the stained glass was designed by Margaret Traherne. Stephen Foster designed, carved and painted the panelling in the Chapel of St. Joseph. The Lady Chapel contains a statue of the Virgin and Child by Robert Brumby and stained glass by Margaret Traherne. In the Blessed Sacrament Chapel is a reredos and stained glass by Ceri Richards and a small statue of the Risen Christ by Arthur Dooley. In the Chapel of Unity is a bronze stoup by Virginio Ciminaghi, and a mosaic of the Pentecost by Hungarian artist Georg Mayer-Marton which was moved from the Church of the Holy Ghost, Netherton, when it was demolished in 1989. The gates of the Baptistry were designed by David Atkins.
Designed by NBBJ and HKS – The Royal Hospital is one of the national infrastructure schemes being delivered under a Government PFI contract, with work having started in 2014 led by now-collapsed contractor Carillion.
After Carillion went into administration, further issues were uncovered during a structural review by Arup in 2018, including that the cladding on the building was unsafe and the project had to be reviewed and re-costed as a result. The targeted completion date is now five years later than planned.
The last structure that Ove Arup designed himself was the award-winning reinforced concrete Kingsgate Footbridge in Durham, England.
Completed in 1963, Arup considered this bridge his finest work. He planned every detail, including the unusual way it was constructed. The need for scaffolding on the river was eliminated by casting the bridge in two halves, one for each bank. The halves were then swivelled out from the banks to meet.
The two halves pivoted on revolving cones, their meeting point marked by an understated bronze expansion joint. Bearings were designed at the base of each part to allow rotation, robust but cheap enough to be used only once.
This elegant example of simple mechanical engineering provided tense moments for the team while the spans were turned and connected.
John Martin, project manager for the bridge, said:
“Ove never seemed to worry that anything might go wrong. That was fine, it just meant that one felt fully responsible for seeing that it didn’t. But he got quite cross when the contractor took a few, to Ove’s view unnecessary, steps to make doubly sure that construction went smoothly. I think that to him it was a question of spoiling the elegance of the idea”.
I’m ever so fond of concrete footbridges, in fact I have written about our local exemplar.
And have taken great pleasure in teaching and preaching whilst atop such.
So it was with some degree of excited anticipation, that I strode eagerly toward Ove’s bridge – a bridge guaranteed to raise a smile, enchanted by its elegance and audacity.
Over we go headlong and fancy free into this black and white concrete world.
Crossing over into colourful off-white world of university life.
Dunelm House was designed by Richard Raines and Michael Powers of the Architects Co-Partnership, and completed in 1966 under the supervision of architect Sir Ove Arup, whose adjacent Kingsgate Bridge opened two years earlier. Built into the steeply sloping bank of the River Wear, Dunelm House is notable internally for the fact that the main staircase linking all five levels of the building runs in an entirely straight line. This was intended by the building’s architects to create the feeling of an interior street.
Work on the new building began in 1960: it was designed by Sir Basil Spence and was built by John Laing & Son at a cost of £2.75 million and was officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh on 14 October 1963.
The design for the seven-storey building involved continuous bands of glazing with exposed concrete beams above and below.
A large mosaic mural depicting local scenes was designed by Clayton and Gelson and installed on the face of the building.
In March 2019, the County Council approved a proposal to move to a smaller new-build facility on the Sands car park at Freeman’s Place in the centre of Durham. Of around 1,850 staff currently based in County Hall, 1,000 will be based at the new HQ and approximately 850 will relocate to four council office sites being developed across the county in Crook, Meadowfield, Seaham and Spennymoor. The building works, which are being carried out by Kier Group at a cost of £50 million, are scheduled to be completed in late 2021. Richard Holden, Conservative member of parliament for North-West Durham, has described the new council headquarters as a ‘vanity project’, questioning the suitability of the location as well as tax increases and cuts to services used to pay for the development.
Online, there is no evidence of any will or pressure to save this glorious building – the site will eventually become that most modern mix of business park, retail, and leisure facilities.
The proposal, led by Durham County Council, forms part of an overall masterplan to knock down the municipal building in Aykley Heads and redevelop the wider site to provide retail, financial and professional space, food and drink units, space for leisure use and a multi-storey car park.
A mural by a beloved pitman painter, commissioned by Durham County Council to mark the opening of County Hall in 1963, has been successfully moved to its new home in Bishop Auckland.
The painting by Norman Cornish, one of the most respected and much-loved artists to emerge from the North-East, depicts the arrival of the banners at Durham Miners’ Gala.
After being commissioned by the council, Cornish was granted 12 months unpaid leave from Mainsforth Colliery in Ferryhill to complete the painting, with most of the work being completed during the coldest winter in 40 years.
Although it arrived at County Hall in 1963 rolled up in the back of a carpet van, the mural’s removal was an incredibly intricate process, involving several experts.
Subsequently, the tills have long since ceased to ring.
The road to redevelopment is paved with good intentions, and so far a profound lack or realisation.
The local folk objected to the planned luxury offices.
Tomorrow Manchester City Council’s Executive is set to approve the development framework for the former Central Retail Park that will see it turned into a zero carbon office district. But, according to a public consultation carried out by grassroots campaigners, an overwhelming majority of locals want public spaces on the 10.5 acre site in Ancoats rather than luxury offices.
As of April 2022 Trees Not Cars have sought the views of local representatives following the decision not to go ahead with the building of a multi-storey car park
What we need are councillors who will stand up for us and push for as much green space as possible at Central Retail Park development.
It’s council owned, it would link in well with Cotton Field Park and will give the capacity for locals to enjoy the outdoors – without driving, once New Islington Green has been developed into offices.
On the day of HM Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, I cycled around Ashton under Lyne in search of landmarks of her sixty year reign.
Today, on the day of her funeral, I set out for a walk around Stockport, to record a town largely closed for business. Overcast but far from downcast, I defied the almost persistent fine rain and these are the pictures that I took.
Many of the subjects are products of her time on the throne.
The traffic was much lighter, there were few pedestrians, a couple of cafés were open and two men watched the funeral service on the Sky TV stand in the precinct.
This is a town with a visual culture defined by carefully created picture postcards – conjuring images from land, sea, sand and sky.
New technology arrives, dragging Llandudno from the sepia soaked past into the CMYK age!
So it’s only right and proper that the town should have an art gallery.
Oriel Mostyn Gallery was commissioned by Lady Augusta Mostyn after the Gwynedd Ladies’ Art Society asked her for better premises than their existing home, in a former cockpit in Conwy. The ladies’ gender prevented them from joining the Royal Cambrian Academy, also based in Conwy.
Designed by architect GA Humphreys, the new gallery opened in 1901. From 1901 to 1903, the gallery housed works by members of the GLAS. As a patron of the arts and president of the society, Lady Augusta was aware that the ladies needed more space to display their work and gave them the opportunity to rent a room in the new building.
Lady Augusta was keen for the gallery to be used by local people, so the society was asked to leave and a School of Art, Science and Technical Classes was set up. Alongside the many classes, there were art exhibitions, lectures. social events, and even a gallery choir and shooting range!
The current shop area was the location for a ‘Donut Dugout’ – a rest and recreation area for the many American servicemen in the town. Coffee and doughnuts were served and the men could read magazines from home.
After the war, Wagstaff’s Piano and Music Galleries occupied the building. In 1976 the artist Kyffin Williams, and others, suggested the building should become the proposed new public art gallery for North Wales. Architects Colwyn Foulkes supervised its restoration and it reopened, as Oriel Mostyn, in 11 August 1979.
Acknowledged to be ‘one of the most beautiful galleries in Britain’, Mostyn in North Wales was an existing listed Victorian museum with two lantern galleries tucked behind a listed facade. We were appointed by Mostyn after winning the Architectural competition with a design combining a gallery space refurbishment with a gallery expansion and a new dramatic infill section linking new and old. The project has won a number of awards and increased footfall by over 60%.
Why not let your feet fall there soon – Oriel Mostynis open.
The very first time I visited the town as a child back in the early 1960s, it rained almost every day.
Subsequent visits have almost always been bathed in warm sunshine.
The Main Campus based on Jesse Boot’s Highfield parkland incorporating Lenton House and Lenton Hall. Boot along with his architect Percy Morley Holder developed a building scheme in 1921, achieving university status in 1948.
DH Lawrence Pavilion architect Marsh & Grochowski 1998-2001
Portland Building – T Cecil Howitt 1949 -56
Trent Building architect: P Morley Horder 1922-28
Portland Building extended in 2001-3 architects: Michael Hopkins & Partners
Further additions to the rear 2013
The New Theatre was established in 1969, and was originally housed in the Archaeology and Classics building of the University of Nottingham. In 2001 an extended foyer was added to the building, following a donation from an alumnus of the university.
The summer of 2012 saw an extensive redevelopment of the building housing the New Theatre. The former Archaeology and Classics building was demolished from the site; leaving the New Theatre as a freestanding building. Parts of the old building were retained and repurposed as new rehearsal rooms, and a studio space; as well as a significant remodelling of the dressing room, and extending the foyer.
University Library architects: Faulkner Brown, Henry, Watkinson & Stonor 1971-73
The collection of buildings in University Park Campus, colloquially known as Science City, was first masterplanned by Basil Spence in 1959. His vision was largely realised by Renton Howard Wood Associates during the 1960s. Since then, numerous additions and alterations have been made to suit the ever increasing student numbers and the changing needs of the University.
Sir Clive Granger Building
A view over the Science Buildings by Basil Spence 1955 and partner Andrew Renton 1961 onward.
The University of Nottingham needed to double the size of its existing academic library to cater for an expansion in serious scientific study. Hopkins Architects faced the difficult task of doubling the size of a rather unremarkable 1960’s building – designed by Basil Spence, on a tight sloping site.
Jubilee Campus is a modern purpose-built campus which now extends to 65 acres and is located only one mile from University Park. The initial phase was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1999. The state-of-the-art facilities now include:
The Schools of Education – including CELE and Computer Science
The Nottingham University Business School
The National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services
University of Nottingham Innovation Park
4000 third party purpose-built student residences within half a mile radius of the campus
Central to the development of the site has been the setting of high BREEAM Standards – an holistic approach to achieve ESG, health, and net zero goals. It is owned by BRE – a profit-for-purpose organisation with over 100 years of building science and research background.
Built on the former site of the immense Number 3Raleigh Bicycle Factory – which was opened by Field Marshal Lord Montgomery in 1957.
At its peak in the 1950s, Raleigh employed 7000 people on a 40 acre site that covered most of Lenton Boulevard, Triumph Road and Orston Drive.
In May 1999, Raleigh announced that it was to cease volume production of frames in the UK. The frame welding robots, installed in 1996, were auctioned off in December 1999.
Enjoying a prime location on the University of Nottingham’s Jubilee Campus, the building provides a number of multidisciplinary and specifically designed laboratory spaces, as well as high quality single and multiple occupancy offices, technical support bases and breakout spaces.
Set within 65 acres of lakeside grounds, close to Nottingham city centre, The Jubilee hotel & conferences offers an innovative setting for events, along with all the comforts of a modern hotel.
If you are looking for sustainable venue hire, look no further. With a range of meetings spaces, breakout areas and bedrooms; The Jubilee is perfect for event and conferences organisers looking for a light, airy and relaxing setting.
Designed to minimise the impact on the environment of its construction and operation. The design of the building is made up of modules manufactured off-site. The building support pillars and trusses are made from a combination of German spruce, Austrian Spruce, and American red cedar.
The designers used computational fluid dynamics to design the curved roof. This enables ventilation of the building by taking advantage of the prevailing wind. One of the laboratories is also ventilated in this way, to determine the viability of doing so elsewhere. The building also features a green roof, and solar panels that cover 45 per cent of the roof area and provide up to 230.9 kW. The four towers on the roof hide the building’s plant equipment. Additionally, a 125-kilowatt biofuel combined heat and power system was built on-site, providing the majority of heat needed for the buildings.
Ingenuity Centre by Bond Bryan 2017
Alucraft designed fabricated and delivered the façade,
At first glance the centre appears to be a hi-tech structure that would not look out of place in a sci-fi movie, with a complex array of metal fins forming a metallic bronze-coloured circular envelope that seems to float around a central core.
Keep looking though and some of the design cues are clearly industrial – the metallic external envelope echoing the form of some finely machined, mechanical component or even the patterned tread of a tyre.
Sir Colin Campbell Building by Bond Bryan 2011 – with Arup acting as structural and services engineer.
Si Yuan Centre of Contemporary Chinese Studies
Xu Yafen Building and Yang Fujia Building by MAKE 2008
Aspire is a 60-metre tall, red and orange steel sculpture by Ken Shuttleworth of MAKE, and was, until overtaken by Anish Kapoor’s Orbit, the tallest free standing public work of art in the United Kingdom. It is taller than Nelson’s Column, the Angel of the North, and the Statue of Liberty
The name Aspire was chosen after a competition to name the sculpture, which was open to staff and students at the university.
A showcase £6.5m research centre, which brings together world-class experts in energy research, has chosen ALUCOBOND® A2 from 3A Composites GmbH, finished in Sakura 917 from its spectra colour series for its cladding.