Modern Buildings in North Wales

An Easter pleasure is having received a copy of Owen Hatherley’s magnificent gazetteer, Modern Buildings in Britain, long awaited and recently published – a monumental description of all the most important modern (or modernist) buildings in the country, both scholarly and opinionated. Being in North Wales is an opportunity to test its coverage. He includes a long description of the theatre and halls of residence at Harlech, but not Clough Williams Ellis’s Morannedd Café on the seafront at Criccieth: he perhaps disapproves of Williams Ellis’s urbane form of superficial modernism and the fact that it was owned by Billy Butlin. He is a bit more generous than I would be to the recent alterations to Oriel Mostyn in Llandudno, which I remember as having somewhat compromised the integrity of the original Edwardian galleries at the back. He doesn’t include the Gwynedd County Hall in Caernarvon which I always think is one of the more interesting and unexpected pieces of 1980s design, inserted into the town in a way which is historically interesting without being too pastiche. On the other hand, he is impressively up-to-date in including the new Grimshaw building for the University of Bangor and Ty Bawb in Wrexham, only completed in 2019. From what I’ve read so far, it looks as if it will stimulate a great deal of visiting of out-of-the-way modern buildings, more like Nairn than Pevsner. So, many treats in store.

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