Gan HLM Architects

What better way to celebrate the end of the Welsh lockdown, than a trip to the newly expanded Techniquest Science and Discovery Centre?

Our team at HLM were delighted to be chosen to reimagine this prominent cultural building. The newly-transformed venue technically opened last autumn, but closed again within just a few weeks as lockdowns were reimposed; so visitor numbers have been sadly limited until recently. Now, this fantastic enhancement to Cardiff Bay can be fully enjoyed by the public, albeit with slightly reduced capacities at the moment, and not just admired as a distant, eye-catching landmark.

One of the UK’s longest established science and discovery centres, our redesign brief of Techniquest was to celebrate the heritage of the site, while creating an immersive, contemporary venue that appeals to audiences of all ages. We chose a bold, origami-inspired building ‘envelope’ to wrap elements of the older building, relocate the entrance, and give a fresh, inviting appearance to the centre. Glazed elements were carefully arranged within the ‘envelope’ to allow glimpses inside, enticing visitors. The reimagined building features double the exhibition space, and includes striking double-height spaces to the rear, which house a dual-purpose mezzanine.

Throughout the project, we have utilised our ‘thoughtful design’ approach, to delight end users by bringing excitement to science in an original way. The process involved creating multiple user movement flowcharts — for different user groups, including school children’s groups, parents with young children, independent adults, and staff — to ensure that all future uses of the building would be catered to. We then assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the original building’s design and made improvements while maintaining and enhancing authentic features where possible.

For ease of access and safety, we relocated the entrance away from the busy road, reducing the danger of traffic for visitors entering and exiting the building. Cladding material of the building ‘envelope’ is inspired by the industrial history of the site, while a mix of high-quality hard and soft materials feature in the surrounding landscape, reflecting and complimenting those of the building and its location.

The result is an instantly recognisable building, with improved layout and form, which is a valuable addition to the Cardiff landscape. A proud celebration of local history and science, the new and improved Techniquest provides interest and excitement, and fulfils the ethos of giving opportunities for thoughtfulness and discovery.

Our Studio Director, Gareth Woodfin, summed up the team’s involvement in the centre’s development:

“The contemporary design draws on the extensive experience of our team and offers visitors a vibrant and exciting space that is flexible, active, and relevant. We feel privileged having played a part in the reimagining of this much-loved centre and are pleased to see it now fully realised.”