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Cardiff arts centre looks at new options after AOC scheme is shelved

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Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre is exploring new options after a contest-winning expansion scheme by AOC Architecture was abandoned due to funding constraints

The prestigious 49-year-old arts centre is working with local outfit Rio Architects on initial concepts for a smaller, phased extension of the venue, which occupies a former Victorian school.

The move comes five years after AOC was selected ahead of 51% Studios in the competition for a £6 million refurb and expansion of the landmark building.

The contest followed a doubling of visitors to the former Canton High School building since Ash Sakula revamped the 3,991m2 venue in 2009. Chapter Arts welcomed more than 750,000 visitors in 2013, compared with Cardiff Castle’s 266,927 visitors. 

Chapter Arts Centre chief executive Andy Eagle told the AJ AOC’s Arts Council of Wales-backed scheme was ‘too ambitious in the current funding climate’ and had to be ‘put to bed’ in 2015.

In a statement, he said: ’We have always wanted to continue to develop the Chapter site. Our plans in 2015 to develop in partnership with resident Chapter partners such as Theatr Iolo and Earthfall were not achievable for a variety reasons, one being it was too ambitious for the funding climate.

’The new plans that are being developed in partnership with Cardiff Council and other partners will focus on the creation of artistic studios and creative office spaces that will enable the number of companies based at Chapter to grow. The creative industries are expanding at an impressive rate in Cardiff and Chapter looks forward to supporting this.’

The venue has been working with the local authority and Rio Architects on smaller alternative proposals since 2017. A further tender for an overall design team may be required if the project goes ahead, Eagle confirmed.

The AOC scheme would have delivered new galleries, cinemas, performance and rehearsal studios, learning spaces and a digital hub. New retail spaces were also planned alongside the refurbishment of existing spaces.

The competition finalists – AOC and 51% Studios – were chosen from a six-strong shortlist, which included Ash Sakula, dRMM, Childs & Sulzmann and Ellis Williams.

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