Dow Jones picks up prize for small project 

Featherstone Young has won the Gold Award for architecture at the National Eisteddfod of Wales.

The London-based architect received the medal this weekend for Tŷ Pawb in Wrexham, an arts centre in a retrofitted 1980s multi-storey car park and market complex.

The other finalists (see box below) included BDP, Feilden Clegg Bradley, Dow Jones and Architype.

Dow Jones walked away with one of the other prizes, for its Maggie’s Centre in Cardiff.

Tŷ Pawb (which means “everybody’s house” in English) contains art galleries, market stalls, performance space, a learning centre, cafes, studios and meeting rooms. The original car park remains in use on the upper storeys.

Featherstone Young’s design introduces cuts in the existing precast concrete building fabric, bringing natural light deep into the plan and creating dramatic vertical connections between floors.

Tŷ Pawb behaves as an extension of Wrexham’s town centre, and plays on the longstanding, popular use of the building as a shortcut to cross the town.

Selector and architect Trevor Skempton said: “The future of our town centres and high streets is a pressing concern for architects, and Tŷ Pawb by Featherstone Young tackled this urban problem in an immediate and imaginative way, by recycling and retrofitting a town centre structure from the 1980s.”

He also praised the “visionary architectural thinking” in Wrexham County Borough Council’s commissioning process that made a retrofit scheme possible.

“Realisation of what has been called ‘baggy space’, the introduction of warmer materials, the ‘choreography’ of the new services, clear respect for the qualities of the existing structure, and the exciting coordination of graphics and furniture design, have led towards an integrated architecture of genuine quality, with exciting potential for further growth and development,” he said.

Sarah Featherstone of Featherstone Young said: “We are so pleased to see Tŷ Pawb win the Gold Medal for Architecture as this was a huge team effort with social value at its heart.”

At the annual event held at Llanrwst, Dow Jones received the Plaque of Merit for its Maggie’s cancer care centre in the Welsh capital. This prize is given for smaller projects of a value of up to £750,000 which achieve high design quality.

Selector Wendy James of architects Garbers & James, which has worked on a number of Maggie’s itself, said: “Despite it being squeezed into the most unglamorous of settings – next to a car park at the back of Velindre Hospital in Cardiff – with a hint that this might be a stop-gap until a more permanent site is found, we found Maggie’s Cardiff entirely convincing.

“Roughly a triangular building, it encloses a small entrance courtyard and one side faces a strip of woodland at the edge of the site. References to vernacular architecture include a cwtsh and simnai fawr, and an external form that reflects the forms and colours of surrounding hills.”

Carole-Anne Davies, chief executive of the Design Commission for Wales, said the shortlist and award winners were characterised by “the ingenuity that accompanies very good design”.

She said: “The constraints of tight sites and seemingly intractable urban challenges have created the conditions for the very best creative problem solving, intrinsic to architectural excellence.”

Meanwhile, Newcastle University student Amabelle Aranas, 21, from Wrexham won the architecture scholarship worth £1,500.

Selector Sara Hedd Ifan of Powell Dobson Architects said: “It is clear that this young architect enjoys designing at a human scale. Her consideration of the user’s experience is a mature thread running through her projects – from the brief, through the working models, to the final designs. It is evident that Amabelle Aranas’ development method is full of energy and ideas, and her process of creating and experimenting through photographing small models and making quick sketches is both striking and enticing.”

Aranas will use the scholarship, which is supported by the Design Commission for Wales and open to under 25-year-olds from Wales or with a Welsh connection, to fund a trip to Fiji to help design and build a school with Caukin Studio. The collective of young architectural designers works on projects worldwide that tackle social, environmental and economic problems through beautiful, well-crafted design.

Aranas said: “This will hopefully increase my knowledge in live build and on-site building methods and allow me to develop more skills in architectural fields such as vernacular style and group work while experiencing a different culture.”

Gold Medal shortlist

Ysgol Trimsaran, Camarthenshire by Architype Ltd;

Ysgol Pen Rhos, Llanelli by HLM Architects;

Maggie’s Cardiff by Dow Jones;

Canolfan S4C Yr Egin, Carmarthen by BDP with the Rural Office for Architecture;

Y Gweithdy, National Museum of History, St Fagans by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios;

Silver How, Llanhennock by Hall + Bednarczyk;

Tŷ Pawb, Wrexham, by Featherstone Young