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De Matos Ryan reveals plans for Welsh arts centre revamp

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De Matos Ryan has unveiled proposals to retrofit the Wyeside Arts Centre in Builth Wells, Powys, Wales

The London-based practice has completed a ’business-led’ feasibility study for the centre, which presents visual arts and cinema screenings in the 1877 Grade II-listed building on the banks of the river Wye.

The firm, which is also working on the V&A Museum of Childhood in east London, won the commission through an OJEU competitive tender via the Sell2Wales procurement portal – a system set up by the Welsh government to tie in with the European Regional Development Fund. 

The initial study shows how the building – originally a combined market hall, assembly rooms and concert hall – could be overhauled to ’improve Wyeside’s offer to its community’.

The plans include adding a cinema studio, expanding the catering and bar facilities, and creating a ’new gathering place’ above the market theatre.

There are also proposals to add in a new stair and lift core.

The project has been backed by the Arts Council of Wales and the Rural Development Programme 2014–2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh government. 

A future timetable is not yet known with client, the Wyeside Works steering group, currently fundraising for the next stage of development.

Architect’s view

The study identifies innovative ways to improve Wyeside’s offer to its community. The ground floor is to be opened up, unlocking its potential as a public-facing space, improving access and visibility.

The creation of a new gathering place above the market theatre will re-establish the 19th-century assembly rooms in a rooftop location with unparalleled views of the river Wye. Designed as a flexible space with a bar, it will be used for pop-up events and trade fairs, exhibitions and private events, and also double up as a small performance space for comedy and jazz. Its inflected roof references the original market hall gables lost in the 1970s.

On the ground floor, the original storefront arches with awnings will be reinstated, making good on previous alterations and allowing the inside to be visible to the street once again. The street-facing spaces will accommodate a public foyer with box office and bar, and a flexible community studio that will be open plan to the foyer area, with full-height double doors to transform it into a discrete space for community and commercial events. The whole of the ground floor area will be used to display local produce, including food, arts and crafts.

Wyeside cgi

Wyeside cgi

On the lower ground floor, the scheme will soundproof the market theatre and the surrounding areas, to enable adjacent spaces to be used simultaneously and put to better community and revenue-making use before, during and after performances. A new events bar will occupy the original cellar-like arches behind the market theatre’s retractable seating rake, aiming to attract younger audiences again, following the demise of the weekly community disco. It will function as a standalone events space as well as a bar serving the market theatre.

A new stair and lift core provides vertical circulation in the centre of the building, dividing the existing castle cinema into two raked cinema studios installed with high-definition screens, offering audiences a choice of screening in an intimate cinema setting.

Project data

Client Wyeside Works Steering Group; Dilwyn Davies of Theatr Mwldan
Architect De Matos Ryan
Project manager RDPMS
Arts business consultant Cultivate
Catering consultant Wright’s Food Emporium
Structural engineer Price Myers
M&E P3r
Access consultant Withernay
Theatre/cinema technical Charcoalblue
Acoustic consultant Charcoalblue
Fire engineering The Fire Surgery
Building condition survey Russell Pickering
Ecology Turnstone Ecology
CDM Henry Riley
Future timetable Not yet known

Wyeside street archive

An archive picture of the Wyeside building - built in 1877 as a combined market hall, assembly rooms and concert hall.

An archive picture of the Wyeside building – built in 1877 as a combined market hall, assembly rooms and concert hall

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