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Ian Ritchie wins contest for major Merthyr Tydfil overhaul

Cyfarthfa Castle
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Ian Ritchie Architects has won a competition for an estimated £50 million revamp of Cyfarthfa Castle and surrounding areas in Wales

The London practice – working with landscape architect Gustafson Porter + Bowman and heritage consultant Fourth Street – was selected ahead of a shortlist of high-profile rival teams to win the estimated £250,000 contract tendered by Merthyr Tydfil Council.

Other finalists invited for interview included Atkins with Farrells, Jestico + Whiles, Snøhetta, Avanti Architects, John McAslan + Partners, and UNStudio. The contest received more than 120 expressions of interest and 20 bids were submitted.

The winning team will now spend about 12 months drawing up a ‘visionary and exemplary strategic masterplan’ to transform the historic country house into a new visitor attraction focusing on the area’s industrial history.

The 20-year masterplan will identify a range of cultural, industrial heritage and landscape projects around the Grade I-listed Cyfarthfa Castle and its 77ha grounds. Cardiff-based ALT-Architecture worked with the Design Commission for Wales to develop the project brief for the local authority.

Ian Ritchie said: ‘The reimagining of Merthyr Tydfil’s industrial heritage must be one that looks beyond the post-industrial into the future. It must deliver a creative future based on environmental leadership, inventive educational development, real social value, community wealth generation at a local level and major economic investment with a national and international outlook.’

Design Commission for Wales chief executive Carole-Anne Davies said: ‘This is a further step towards realising the ambition to bring the contemporary projection of Merthyr Tydfil into line with its historical importance. The quality of this team promises a very exciting outcome that will benefit the town and the region as well as Wales as a whole.’

Located around 37 km north of Cardiff on the edge of the Brecon Beacons, Merthyr Tydfil became a major centre of iron production during the early industrial revolution. Cyfarthfa Castle was built in 1824 by the architect Robert Lugar for the Crawshay family who controlled the largest ironworks in the town. The building and its grounds were purchased by the local authority more than one 100 years ago and transformed into a public park, museum and school.

The latest project will regenerate the Cyfarthfa Estate and other heritage assets across Merthyr Tydfil such as the Crawshay furnaces and River Taff through a series of large and smaller projects which will be delivered over the next 20 years.

The masterplan will build on the conclusions of the Merthyr Tydfil Industrial Heritage Design Charrette held at Cyfarthfa Castle in October 2017 which called for a cathedral-like venue for industrial heritage, a connected landscape, broader geographic connections and year-round events.

A later report by the Design Commission for Wales based on the charette – dubbed Crucible – called for £50 million to create a centre of national importance centred around the castle and won backing from the local authority.

Ian Ritchie Architects will now draw up a ‘creative, multi-layered’ masterplan featuring a new museum or visitor attraction capable of receiving around 300,000 visitors a year. Other long-term interventions and a series of quick-to-deliver early stage projects may also be required.

Competition jurors included Peter Clegg, senior partner at Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios; Martin Knight, managing director at Knight Architects; Amanda Spence, architect at ALT-Architecture; and the local authority’s regeneration programmes manager, Zoe Thomas.

Bids were evaluated 80 per cent on quality and 20 per cent on cost.

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