Work has started on site to transform Old College in Aberystwyth into a vibrant cultural and creative centre for Wales. Lawray Architects is leading the multi-disciplinary team which includes Austin-Smith:Lord (Conservation and Interiors), Hoare Lee (MEP) and Mann Williams (Structural and Civil Engineering).

The distinctive and architecturally significant 19th century building was the birthplace of the University of Wales. Detailed proposals will see the Grade I listed building and the adjacent Grade II listed villas transform the University’s historic home into an exhibition centre, a place of learning and discovery, and a hub for creative business start-ups.

Principal contractor Andrew Scott Ltd has started the first phase of work that will see the Grade II listed Georgian Villas on the seafront restored and completely refurbished.

Further phases will follow with the construction of a new atrium space including a multi-use foyer with new entrances that will create a sense of arrival and provide access to the main spaces, linking the seven floors of Old College via the new stairs and lifts. The new cultural centre will be supported with a 4* boutique hotel, conference facilities, wedding and event spaces and a cantilevered function room over the villas.

The Proposals include creating three themed zones:

1. Inspired by the University’s motto, the ‘World of Knowledge’ will include a centre celebrating pioneering science and research, a University Museum, a Young People’s project, 24-hour student study spaces and a cutting edge cinema facility, all of which will provide opportunities to boost skills and aspirations.

2. Traditionally the beating heart of Old College, the Quadrangle will provide the focus for the Community and Culture zone’s exhibition galleries, that will feature curated displays from the University’s collections and touring exhibitions from major partners. This zone also includes the UK’s first Centre for Dialogue designed ‘in-the-round’. The Centre will be located alongside multi-purpose teaching and training rooms including the seafront Seddon room named after the building’s visionary Victorian architect.

The existing polycarbonate roof over the Quadrangle will be removed, revealing the original Victorian roof lantern. A new glass roof will flood the space below with daylight and the original roof structure and the curved timber ceiling with blue and yellow glass panels will be restored to further enhance the interior of the Quadrangle.

3. The Enterprise and Innovation zone will provide twelve creative business units with communal spaces to encourage young entrepreneurs in creative and digital businesses, the two fast growing sectors of major economic importance to West Wales.

For the first time in its history the building will be accessible to all and will offer inspiring new shared facilities and resources for the local and academic communities, and visitors from around the world.

Backed by the Welsh Government, Old College is one of the most ambitious educational, heritage, cultural and community projects in Wales. The project has been awarded £11.1m by the National Lottery Heritage Fund along with funding from Welsh Government, the European Regional Development Fund, The National Lottery Community Fund, the Coastal Communities Fund, the Garfield Weston Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation, the Joy Welch Educational Charitable Trust, the Foyle Foundation, the Gwendoline and Margaret Davies Charity and individual donations.

In all, the redevelopment will provide spaces for activities and events across seven floors and 143 rooms, including 10 rooms with capacity ranging from 60 up to 220 people, and is expected to attract 200,000 visitors annually putting it on par with major tourist destinations in Wales.

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