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Tŷ Pawb really is a house for everyone

Words:
Michèle Woodger

Baggy space and unlooked-for encounters make Wrexham's and arts centre and covered market a hit

The flexible ‘People’s Square’ can be partitioned with plastic strip curtains for different uses.
The flexible ‘People’s Square’ can be partitioned with plastic strip curtains for different uses.

Building Tŷ Pawb Covered Market and Arts Centre
Location Wrexham, North Wales
Architect Featherstone Young
Building type Arts venue / Retail / Public space

Tŷ Pawb – meaning Everybody’s House – brings together under one roof a local market with a forward-thinking arts centre and gallery. Located in a former multi-storey car park in Wrexham, Wales, Featherstone Young’s innovative model – funded by Arts Council of Wales and the Welsh government – enables the arts venue and market traders to benefit economically and socially from each other’s presence, while revitalising an overlooked part of town.

The new facilities housed within the building include art galleries, market stalls, performance space, a learning centre, a café and a bar on the ground floor. Above are studios and meeting rooms for artists and gallery staff, which benefit from a view over double-height spaces.

Featherstone Young adopted a deliberately flexible approach to the interior, enabling users to tailor the space according  the different needs on a given day. This is achieved through movable furniture, sliding partitions and retractable seating within the performance space; the architects devised a concept they call ‘baggy space’ – loose and unprescribed areas where users can fill in the gaps. This approach inspired the gallery curators to implement a new type of programming which responds quickly and flexibly to ideas and provides a platform for the wider community to raise important local issues.

Making art accessible and part of ‘everyday life’ was fundamental. Architecturally, this is achieved with maximum visibility and permeability designed into the building. Interior windows, mesh partitions, gaps in the blockwork and open spaces all contribute to an effect which uses walls as communication devices rather than barriers. In the words of creative director Jo Marsh: ‘It’s our ambition to create a programme centred on dialogue with the local community [that is] locally-rooted and internationally facing.’

  • The ‘People’s Wall’ is a trivision billboard featuring work by artists with the community (or: integrated seating allows shoppers to ‘inhabit’ the wall)
    The ‘People’s Wall’ is a trivision billboard featuring work by artists with the community (or: integrated seating allows shoppers to ‘inhabit’ the wall)
  • A restrained materials palette – plywood, blockwork and mesh – made maximum use of the budget, while internal windows allow maximum visibility
    A restrained materials palette – plywood, blockwork and mesh – made maximum use of the budget, while internal windows allow maximum visibility
  • A gallery benefits from an impressive double-height space, overlooked by offices and studios.
    A gallery benefits from an impressive double-height space, overlooked by offices and studios.
  • Street furniture was designed by local artist Tim Denton and made by the community
    Street furniture was designed by local artist Tim Denton and made by the community
  • The former carpark is now a welcoming arts centre revitalising the surrounding streets
    The former carpark is now a welcoming arts centre revitalising the surrounding streets
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Thanks to its location between two distinct retail areas in the town, Tŷ Pawb acts as a shortcut for shoppers, who thereby come face to face with the arts while not necessarily seeking to do so. Conversely, people specifically visiting the gallery are encouraged to peruse the market and visit local shops, contributing to the wider economy of Wrexham.

It is an imaginative solution to multiple challenges, such as the decline of the high street, encouraging the public to engage with the arts, and the creation of genuinely public spaces for communities to use. As judge Hana Loftus said: ‘it’s a really interesting project. You can imagine so many spaces being re-used in this way.’

Hugh Pearman agreed, adding: ‘It’s a good example of the use of low budget materials in a restrained way. Every town in Britain has a car park like this; if we are going to have fewer cars we’ll need more reuse of existing structures.’

Click here to see the longlist and other shortlisted schemes


Architect Featherstone Young
Building contractor Wynne Construction
Structural engineer Civic up to stage 3; Haltec stage 4-5
Services engineer Ingine, formerly Michael Popper Associates, up to stage 3; ESD stage 4-5
Civil engineer Civic up to stage 3, Haltec stage 4-5
QS Stockdale stage 3, SP Projects stage 4-5
Artist/furniture maker Tim Denton
Graphics/signage Elfen
Photography James Morris