The conversion of an existing Grade II listed building in the centre of Aberystwyth. Originally constructed in 1874 and extended in 1911, Yr Hen Ysgol Gymraeg served firstly as an English language Board School and subsequently a Welsh language school until 1989. Constructed in a Victorian Gothic style with walls of locally quarried grit stone, with freestone and brick detailing and dressings sourced more widely from Somerset and Shropshire. Slate covered steeply pitched roofs and tall brick chimneys are the dominant feature of the building. From 1994 the building was re-purposed as offices for Welsh Government use up to 2009 and then sub-divided for smaller businesses. Receding occupancy levels meant that a new use had to be found for the building.
Appointed by the client in 2015, our response was to design a new Café Quarter for Aberystwyth. Being located immediately adjacent to Aberystwyth’s railway and bus station to the east and recent retail development to the west, Yr Hen Ysgol Gymraeg is well located to serve both visitors and residents of the town.
Later building extensions have been removed to return the school buildings as closely as possible to their 1911 arrangement and the interior classroom spaces have been arranged to create six new café or restaurant spaces of varying size. The building interiors have been re-shaped to remove all evidence of the most recent office use and to strip the building back to its original interior in readiness for fit-out by restaurant and café tenants.
Externally a new courtyard has been designed to encourage public movement through and use of this space. A tree-lined pedestrian route has been arranged through the site to connect with the public realm of the adjacent railway station to the east and to retail to the west. Outdoor seating areas have been arranged to enable restaurant and café seating and dining areas to extend to the outside and to contribute to the sense of place which has been the focus of our design.