Visitor Center

Visitor Center in Caerphilly, Wales by Davies Sutton Architecture

The following text and images (click for larger views) are courtesy Davies Sutton Architecture for their visitor center at Caerphilly Castle in Wales.

Caerphilly Castle is a scheduled ancient monument in the guardianship of Cadw; founded by the Anglo-Norman earl, 'Red Gilbert' de Clare, at the end of the thirteenth century. Its revolutionary design was based upon the concentric plan. It is one of the most visited of all the Cadw monuments attracting nearly 100,000 visitors a year. The site is situated in the center of the small town just 12 miles north of Wales' capital city, Cardiff. The brief required the building to house a shop, ticketing/reception, office, store, welfare facilities for staff, and public toilets.

It is a well accepted philosophy that new buildings on historic sites should not attempt to copy the past. The aim at Caerphilly was to create a building that is sympathetic with its historic surroundings and yet is clearly a building "of its time" - not a pastiche of the past or a fake. The inspiration was taken from the Castle itself. Like so many large stone medieval castles that offered protection when under attack, they also contained less massive structures in and around the castle. These structures were made of oak frames. The "Hoard" or fighting platform, and siege engines at Caerphilly are both made of oak frames.

However, we have not created a "replica" building. It is a balance of modern and traditional - using traditional materials to reflect the past but put together in a way that is of its time - "today". As well as the oak frame, there are steel/lead roofs (commonly used on castles) and inside the floor is Welsh slate. The paths around the building are laid with a local Pennant stone. The theme of attack is also reflected in the design. The prow of the roof rises up to point at the inner Gatehouse as if it were attacking it.

The concept has resulted in a building which, whilst sitting comfortably within an historic setting, is very much of its time. A balance of traditional and modern materials, and utilizing modern environmental techniques for harnessing the earth's natural resources.