The small city of Aberystwyth in west Wales just got itself on the architectural map, courtesy of some brand new and very shiny 'Creative Units' for its Arts Centre. Designed by London-based Studio Heatherwick, the units sit within woodland on the Aberystwyth University campus.
'The brief was for something special but also affordable,' says Thomas Heatherwick. His solution was to bring together basic and inexpensive materials in an unusual design.
The units consist of eight simple timber-frame structures on concrete stilts. What gives them that 'special' touch however is their crinkled shimmering skin which is made from incredibly thin sheets of stainless steel that are customized by the architects themselves in a bespoke press-like machine they built in their office.
The interiors are basic, in order to allow for it to adapt to the varying needs of different artists, but all are bathed in light through large windows and skylights, which also open for ventilation.
As strange as their appearance may currently look within Aberystwyth’s green scenery, Heatherwick says that the environment was part of the inspiration. 'The reflections that the bright colours create on the units’ surface are amazing and lively. The structures will soon be emerged in leafy trees, vividly imitating the forest’s colorations. The units’ mirror skin will make sure they blend in the natural environment and that the architecture will work in perfect harmony with the weather condition changes throughout the year.'
The scheme is already proving a success, as all the units, only a week after opening, are currently occupied, while a ninth one is planned for the near future. Further spaces to support the artists’ work are also discussed, with a meeting hall building also in plans for a plot right next to the workshops. The residents include internationally renowned painter Mary Lloyd Jones and Creu Cymru - the National Development Agency for Theatres and Arts Centres in Wales – as well as a number of artists working with a range of media, from publishing to textiles and filmmaking.