10 stylish buildings
Wales isn’t all about stone cottages and medieval castles – contemporary architecture is adding a sleek, stylish, eco-efficient edge to the nation’s urban areas, National Parks and heritage attractions.
Aberystwyth Arts Centre
Aberystwyth’s uncompromisingly rectilinear concert hall (1970) and organic theatre and galleries (2000) won RIBA awards for its architects, Dale Owen of Percy Thomas Partnership and Peter Roberts. The latest additions (2009) are artists’ studios with walls clad in crumpled steel by Heatherwick Studio of 2012 Olympic Cauldron fame.
Find out more about Aberystwyth Arts Centre
Caerphilly Castle Visitor Centre
Designed by Davies Sutton architects, this light oak-framed visitor centre with a striking pointed roof is a pleasing counterpoint to the plain stone towers of Caerphilly Castle. The building faces south for maximum solar gain and uses the thermal mass of the adjoining moat to reduce overall energy consumption.
Conceived in 1995 as part of Caernavon’s regeneration programme, this arts centre by Richard Murphy Architects opened beside Victoria Dock in 2005. A visible steel frame gives the structure a dockland warehouse feel, softened by green oak boarding. The interiors are simple, elegant and generously proportioned.
Find out what's on at Galeri Caernarfon
The Great Glasshouse, National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire
When it opened at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in 2000, this magnificent glasshouse by Norman Foster and Partners was the largest in the world. The idea was to give the regenerated garden a sparkling new focal point, and sparkle it does – its huge domed roof gives off quite a glare on sunny days.
Cardiff's Central Library Hub
With state-of-the-art technology designed to maximise its sustainability, Cardiff’s Central Library Hub (2009) is a model of eco-efficiency. BDP Architects clad the exterior in panels of metal and glass inspired by the spines of books on shelves. Designed as a venue for all kinds of events, it was opened by the Manic Street Preachers.
Hafod Eryri - Snowdon Summit Building
Shaped like a weaver’s shuttle, this low-slung granite and glass building nestles elegantly into the rugged summit of Snowdon (Eryi in Welsh). The stone for the walls came from Blaenau Ffestiniog. Completed in 2009, the Summit Building doubles as a terminus for the Snowdon Mountain Railway, a visitor centre and café for hikers.
Principality Stadium, Cardiff
This massive Principality Stadium (1999) cost £121 million, but the average rugby-mad Welshman will argue it was worth every penny. On non-match days, you can soak up the atmosphere by taking a tour. Guides take you into the Dragon’s Lair, the dressing room of the Welsh rugby team, and even down the players’ tunnel, onto the pitch.
Senedd, National Assembly for Wales
Parts of this highly acclaimed parliament building (2006), designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership, are open to the public. The reception area, beautifully lit with natural light via the tree-like Funnel, is particularly inspiring. To see more, you can book a guided tour, or take a virtual tour on the National Assembly website.
Ruthin Craft Centre
A quirky zinc roofline adds a delightfully playful touch to this practical-minded gallery and studio complex (2008). Designed by Sergison Bates Architects, it contains wonderfully light, simply decorated exhibition spaces, workshop units and a café with a courtyard terrace. The walls are of terracotta-coloured cast stone.
Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
This unmistakable arts centre by Jonathan Adams of Percy Thomas Architects was completed in 2009 and is already an icon of contemporary Wales. While some feel it leans heavily on stereotypes from the past (copper, stone, steel and nostalgic calligraphy), it’s widely praised for being welcoming and uniquely Welsh.