Gwyn Hall, a Listed building brought back to life

4 May 2012

Gwyn Hall, a Grade II listed community arts centre that was destroyed in a fire, has reopened following a £7million renovation designed by Holder Mathias.

Originally constructed in 1887, Gwyn Hall has been transformed into an arts and cultural venue that includes a new 400-seat auditorium theatre, a multipurpose studio and a 3D digital cinema, as well as a café, bar and conferencing facilities.

Appointed by Neath Port Talbot Council in 2007, architectural practice, Holder Mathias had only the shell left to work with as the interior of the building, as well as the original roof line and its chimneys, were destroyed in the blaze.

Designing a new structure within the building’s existing shell meant that the construction process was highly complex. The building integrates many of the building’s original features, such as the helical staircases and existing facade, with a contemporary planar-glazed extension to produce a striking, landmark venue.

As part of the renovation, the second floor of the building was raised at the sides to allow the original, full-length windows to be brought back to their former glory and enjoyed from within the auditorium. The cinema, located in a smaller acoustic pod on the second floor, allows the new studio alongside to benefit from the natural light and open volume of the entire roof space within which it sits. The ancillary ‘back of house’ features, such as dressing rooms, are housed in a simple extension at the rear of the building, leaving the new glazed public areas to the front to enliven the street and provide a lively café/bar and box office.

The new building is also far more sustainable, with natural ventilation and lighting features integrated into the original fabric, including the introduction of a 20metre long ridge vent and rooflights to the top floor.

A partner at Holder Mathias, says: “Recognising that Gwyn Hall is an important cultural landmark, our designs sought to retain the essence of the original building that made it so popular, but also create a modern venue that will become a focal point in the community for both locals and those visiting from further afield.

“The refurbishment enabled us to relocate the auditorium to the ground floor, providing a more accessible multi-use theatre, while also using the full space of the existing shell to bring Gwyn Hall into the 21st century and help it realise its potential as a modern arts venue.”

Neath Port Talbot Leader, Ali Thomas, says: “This council committed to rebuild this much loved building and it has been a long and complicated road. We have respected the tradition and history of the building but we have been able to provide a truly modern arts and cultural venue which will inspire generations to come.”