The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Click to see full size. Photo © James Morris
Photo © James Morris

100 Buildings 100 Years

2009: Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Type: Education
Architect: Thomas Heatherwick
Owners: Aberystwyth University
Location: Penglais Campus, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 3DE

Sixteen artist’s studios, wrapped in BacoFoil, gently shimmering amid foliage. Welcome to Aber. This is Thomas Heatherwick’s winning competition entry for start-up ‘creative units’ at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. At once futurist and home-made, Heatherwick’s woodside pavilions are a kind of fulfilment of Peter Cook’s 1972 vision of ‘a Quietly Technologised Folk-Suburbia’.

Heatherwick’s low-cost cladding system was based on sheets of steel the thickness of a drink can, specially crinkled in a crinkling mangle, wrapped around timber battens, and stiffened with spray-on insulation foam backing. Will it all stand up to the ravages of time, a coastal climate and art students? Does that matter? An image has been realised, and that is what counts.

The final word goes to Mary Lloyd Jones, the celebrated Welsh painter and one of the first occupants: ‘One of the reasons for applying for a residency was because of the light in the studio – so beautiful’.

by Geraint Franklin


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