Landmark Gallery of “National Importance to Wales” Strikes Gold

A contemporary art gallery in Llandudno has won the Gold Medal for Architecture, sponsored by the Design Commission for Wales, at the Wrexham & District 2011 National Eisteddfod of Wales.

In awarding the accolade on Saturday 30 July, the judges described the Mostyn Gallery as “a civic landmark of national importance to Wales”.

Ellis Williams Architects of Warrington were employed to add two new galleries to the existing ones in the Grade II listed building. Following the brief that the new additions should have “simplicity, subtlety and sophistication plus one or two surprises,” the judges found these qualities in abundance in the redesigned gallery

Mhairi McVicar, judge and lecturer at the Welsh School of Architecture, said: “We were impressed by the way natural light had been brought into the building and the gallery spaces link together seamlessly, not only providing the ideal environment for exhibits, but clearly a highly enjoyable and uplifting space for visitors.

“The Mostyn Gallery was selected as worthy of the Gold Medal for Architecture both for its highly ambitious and beautifully executed architectural response, but also for the subtlety demonstrated in working with a listed building, and the generosity of the urban response in highlighting the gallery as a civic landmark of national importance to Wales.”

The Gold Medal for Architecture, sponsored by the Design Commission for Wales, is given in conjunction with the Royal Society of Architects in Wales. It is the only award supported by the Design Commission for Wales, which attaches great importance to its aim of drawing attention to architecture as a vital element in the nation's culture and to honour architects achieving the highest design standards.

The architecture judges also Highly Commended the new WISE building at the Centre for Alternative Technology at Machynlleth, which was also shortlisted for the Gold Medal for Architecture.

Fellow judge Simon Venables, who is also Director of Ainsley Gommon Architects and Vice President of the Royal Society of Architects in Wales, said: “The WISE building, designed by Pat Borer and David Lea, represents decades of dedicated development in sustainable practice, and we felt that this project should be recognised for its extraordinarily high quality. The careful choice of materials and constructive methods with low embodied energy has created an exemplary building.”

The judges awarded the National Eisteddfod of Wales’ Plaque of Merit for Architecture to the Environmental Resource Centre at Ebbw Vale, by Design Research Unit Wales.

Simon Venables added: “Here, on a very modest budget, facilities are provided for local school children and the community to explore the heritage and ecology of the former steelworks at Ebbw Vale. As well as promoting a systematic means of making use of regional materials, the design re-uses remnants of the steelworks, adapting the original concrete bases of the cooling ponds to support an abundant array of wildlife, demonstrating an ethos of cultural as well as environmental sustainability.”

The awarding of the Gold Medal for Architecture comes hot on the heels of a report, published by the Design Commission for Wales, which indicates that the quality of design for the built environment in Wales is steadily improving.

Alan Francis, chair of the Design Commission for Wales, said: “The Commission supports the award because it believes that architecture is an art form vital to our culture and our cultural heritage and that good architectural design strengthens Wales’ distinctiveness and the quality of its places. The Gold Medal for Architecture is the only award that recognises this and it is intrinsically linked to Wales’ most important cultural festival – The National Eisteddfod of Wales.

“We are delighted to see the Ellis Williams Architects’ scheme for Oriel Mostyn, Llandudno being awarded Gold. Without doubt, the dramatic intervention at Mostyn is a deserving winner of an award that recognises outstanding projects.

“We are also delighted with the number of entries this year and the standard across all types of scheme – domestic, cultural, education, or civic. The context for good design in Wales is stronger and the cultural relevance of architecture as a means of shaping Wales’ profile is strengthened by the Eisteddfod Gold Medal for Architecture.

“The diversity of design was also encouraging, and the quality and innovation demonstrated at the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education at CAT in Machynlleth, or the Environmental Resource Centre at Ebbw Vale, is as engaging as Mostyn is dramatic or Ty Hedfan is delightful.

“All the shortlisted schemes deserve recognition, and we are very pleased with the upward trend in both entries and standards for this award. It certainly seems to be in line with our recent findings, which indicate that the quality of design of the built environment in Wales is gradually improving.”