Chapter

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.

Awards

2010 RIBA/RSAW Award for Architecture

2011 Eisteddfod Gold Medal for Architecture

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."

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.

Ash Sakula’s usual attention to colour and finish is in evidence and creates an ambience, well attuned to the spirit of Chapter, that succeeds in 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.

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

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

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

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.”

Read more about the thinking behind this project:

Cutaway image showing the new Chapter

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.

Two colour asphalt forms a carpet from street to entrance.

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: 2009