Tŷ Pawb (Everybody’s House) is a new model for an arts venue, designed by architects Featherstone Young. It relocates Oriel Wrecsam - formerly Wrexham Arts Centre - within one of the town’s three market spaces, The People’s Market: an existing purpose-built 1990s multi-storey car park and market hall. The new facilities include art galleries, market stalls, performance space, a learning centre, cafes and bars. Studios and meeting rooms for artists and gallery staff overlook newly created double-height spaces.
The project, commissioned by Wrexham County Borough Council, with support from Arts Council of Wales and the Welsh Government, presents a new typology which reinvents underused public infrastructure enlivening it with cultural uses, ensuring the sustainability of both during financially challenging times.
Architects Featherstone Young and the Tŷ Pawb team have had to rethink the civic role of cultural programming, creating a new model which challenges the traditional art gallery environment and offers a looser and more experimental space that is rooted in the community and everyday life. Featherstone Young refers to this as the ‘baggy space’ concept, where designers and curators create a light-touch framework which enables others to fill the gaps. This approach helps create a place that can be used habitually, and opens up the potential for meaningful experiences amongst a wider public.
The building is strategically located between the town centre and edge-of-town attractions, which, together with the market and car park uses, offers opportunities to attract more people to the arts, as they traverse it as a cut-through route.
The retrofit design scheme introduces cuts into the existing precast concrete building fabric bringing natural light deep into the plan and creating dramatic vertical connections between floors.
Laterally a new streetscape behaves as an extension of Wrexham’s town centre, and plays on the longstanding, popular use of the building as a shortcut to cross the town and is conveyed through the use of squares, signposts, billboard and street furniture.
An array of facilities is housed within the building: a mix of arts spaces, market trading and food retailers occupy the ground floor, with studios and offices on the first floor, whilst the original car park remains in use on the upper storeys.
When the centre reopened locally in April it welcomed back market stall owners to trade alongside new food retailers in new light-filled dynamic space featuring exhibition spaces which are being programmed by Tŷ Pawb. Users now pass through the transformed spaces for a very different experience: bright and spacious volumes animated by cultural activities and, more prosaically, longer trading hours that include early morning coffee and late-night drinks.
The transformation of the building is announced externally with a new entrance and the graphic treatment of the external facades, employing the new Tŷ Pawb name and logo designed by Cardiff-based agency Elfen. This signals Tŷ Pawb’s presence within the town, and in the future will function as a blank canvas for a changing display of artwork.