This is the story of finding a new purpose for a much-loved local building. Built in 1910 as the Workmens Institute, it was a key gathering place in the proud mining village of Abertridwr, not far from Caerphilly. It served as a concert hall and library, and later as a cinema. Then, as times changed, it found use as a bingo hall and boxing gym. But lately, it has fallen into disrepair, with weeds growing from the roof, and ran the risk of slowly crumbling away, which would be a tremendous waste of such a handsome building and one that figures strongly in the memories of everyone from Abertridwr.
Our clients saw the possibility of converting it into flats, giving the building a reason to keep existing well into the future while helping to address the need for homes in the village. But could this be done while keeping the distinct look of this local landmark intact?
For this project, we stuck to the architectural side, working closely with planning consultants who are much more expert in Welsh regulations. Our task was to find a way to get a good number of flats in the building while not losing what makes this place so special.
We end up adding a new full floor at the height of the old pitched roof. That would mean four storeys of flats, with the basement floor left for parking. In total, there are 24 flats, ranging in size from one-beds to four bedrooms, providing an excellent mix and making a substantial contribution to boosting the housing supply. Large windows mean all the units get plenty of light – because it’s crucial we don’t just build more new homes, but more good new homes.
Meanwhile, the impressive stone facade is fully restored with the famous ‘Workmens Institute 1910’ sign intact. The red metal panels of the new top floor pick up the colour from the original door arches. The result is the 1910s in harmony with the 2020s, and puts this building in great shape to become a happy home to many people while remaining a reference point for everyone who has ever visited or lived in the village.
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