Cardiff's Chapter Arts Centre was a product of the progressive, community-minded idealism of the late 1960s which found expression in local, grass-roots initiatives like adventure playgrounds, city farms and other community development projects.

Founded to serve both artists and the wider community, Chapter can count itself among such radical projects, but it is unusual; it has not only survived to the present day, but thrived, without losing touch with its founding objectives.

Today, its rolling programme of over 1000 exhibitions, screenings and performances attracts more than 800,000 visitors each year, double the pre-refurbishment total.

2010 RIBA/RSAW Award for Architecture

2011 Eisteddfod Gold Medal for Architecture

 Chapter Arts Cardiff Ash Sakula interior entrance with shadows

The task for Ash Sakula was to undertake a makeover of the Edwardian school building the organisation had occupied for over 40 years, augmenting and improving the function without diminishing its radical spirit.

Writing in the Architect's Journal, Rory Olcayto wrote, “Everything is where it has always been. It’s just easier to find and it looks better.” He went on to say "... this entire project has an ambience that speaks of an attuned and confident craftsmanship matched by few British architects."

And Chapter's Director, Janek Alexander, said it is "a building that is thrillingly new and comfortably familiar."

 Chapter Arts Cardiff Ash Sakula interior busy cafe

To open up the building, we carved out a broad shaft of public space, making it possible for you to walk through the building and out the far side. We fostered a welcoming, inclusive ambience by forming niches and spaces that created different reasons to use the building, with snug areas in which to meet or work.

We made spaces and connections legible so that from the café concourse, you can see the steps up to the theatre and the gallery is ‘right there’. The result is a building that not only looks good but is easy to navigate.

Chapter Arts Cardiff Ash Sakula box office

We paid careful attention to colour and finish, aiming to create an ambience well attuned to the spirit of Chapter by being both reassuring and exciting.

Original Edwardian glazed tilework, previously concealed, has been exposed and supersize lettering, vintage wallpapers and elements of strong colour have been deployed to good effect.

The palette of architectural textures - brickwork, timber lathes, whitewashed stonework and two-colour tarmac - makes the space feel grounded and robust.

Chapter Arts Cardiff Ash Sakula rear entrance

Rear entrance to the new concourse. Behind there is a small open air courtyard with a covered area for wet weather.

Chapter Arts Cardiff Ash Sakula box office and entrance foyer

The box office and entrance foyer, looking through to the café concourse beyond.

Chapter Arts Cardiff Ash Sakula 34 metre bar the longest bar in Wales

A section of the 34 metre bar, the longest in Wales.

Ash Sakula drawings photos
Entrance from the car park, with pre-renovation murals carefully retained.
Ash Sakula drawings photos
Ash Sakula drawings photos
Ash Sakula drawings photos
Chapter Arts Cardiff Ash Sakula exterior view of entry courtyard and the red brick refurbished arts building

Opening the renovated building, First Minister Rhodri Morgan said: “The new Chapter looks stunning... If there's a better arts centre anywhere in Europe, I want to see it.”

Chapter Arts Cardiff Ash Sakula cutaway axonometric sketch

Cutaway image showing the new Chapter

Chapter Arts Cardiff Ash Sakula entrance lightbox

Over the front entrance, a fifteen-metre lightbox is an opportunity to show site-specific graphic works, while also illuminating the first-floor cinema lobby behind it.

Chapter Arts Cardiff Ash Sakula entrance exterior

Two colour asphalt forms a carpet from street to entrance.

Chapter Arts Cardiff Ash Sakula covered seating in the rear courtyard

Covered seating in the rear courtyard

The renovated Cinema 2. The starry sky ceiling and red and blue plush was inspired by Gunnar Asplund's 1922 Skandia Cinema in Stockholm.

Client: Chapter

Site area: 7,132 sqm

Value £3.8m

Completed: 2011