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Cardiff’s first modernist building, Wales Empire Pool, 1958

Valeria Carullo

War delayed John Dryburgh’s baths, designed with the reinforced concrete specialist Oscar Faber, for over 20 years, but they were worth the wait

Credit: Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Collections

Wales Empire Pool
Cardiff, 1958

The Wales Empire Pool was inaugurated in April 1958, as part of the structures erected in Cardiff to host the British Empire and Commonwealth Games. New swimming baths had already been planned for this site in the 1930s, but the scheme was halted by the outbreak of the war. The Commonwealth Games eventually provided the perfect opportunity to build a new pool. It was designed by E C Roberts and supervised by John Dryburgh – city architect from 1957 to 74 – in collaboration with structural engineer Oscar Faber, who had been influential in the development of the use of reinforced concrete in the country. Once completed, the Wales Empire Pool was acclaimed as the first example of modernist architecture in Cardiff, and comparisons were made with the Royal Festival Hall in London. In addition to the international standard swimming pool, the building also provided facilities such as Turkish baths, physiotherapy rooms and the restaurant featured in this photograph, which also shows the curved roof spanning the pool and seating areas. The Wales Empire Pool was demolished in 1998 to make way for the construction of the Millennium Stadium.