Revitalising Old College into a cultural and creative haven in Aberystwyth
One of Raven Delta Group’s latest major projects is an ambitious endeavour to restore and retrofit Aberystwyth University’s treasured Old College. This iconic building, with its rich history as the first University College of Wales, is undergoing a remarkable transformation, thanks to the combined efforts of many collaborators, including Raven Delta Group companies: EFT Consult and RDM Electrical & Mechanical Services.
The vision behind this ambitious project is to breathe new life into Old College, a magnificent grade 1 listed structure, and transform it into a vibrant cultural and creative centre for Wales. By doing so, the project aims to create a space where diverse communities can engage with learning, heritage, and innovation, fostering dialogue and prosperity.
Inspired by the University’s founding motto, “Nid Byd, Byd Heb Wybodaeth” (A World Without Knowledge is no World at all), the renovated Old College will provide shared facilities, resources, and activities that benefit a wide range of individuals. These include the University’s students, researchers, alumni, local residents, the 190,000 annual visitors from around the world, and countless others who will connect through digital and community engagement initiatives.
Detailed project plans and planning applications were approved in 2019, paving the way for the transformation of the Old College and the adjacent two Georgian villas into a unified centre that will attract people of all ages and backgrounds. The revitalised space will offer stunning rooms spread across seven floors, including ten rooms with capacities ranging from 60 to 200, where visitors can enjoy a diverse range of activities.
This ambitious project has garnered support from various quarters, including the Welsh Government, Ceredigion County Council, and partners such as the National Museum Wales, Hay Festival, and the National Library of Wales. Together, the University is forging ahead with a robust operating model and a comprehensive business plan. By 2027/28, it anticipates annual gross revenues of £3.2 million, the creation of 60 new jobs on-site and a further 70 in local businesses, 900 training opportunities, 400 annual volunteering opportunities, £11.4 million injected into the local area by visitors, and an uplift in Gross Value Added (GVA) of £4.5 million!
The contributions of Raven Delta Group’s associated companies in making this vision a reality
EFT Consult: As a leading consultancy firm renowned for its expertise in sustainable and energy-efficient building solutions, EFT Consult will play a pivotal role in the Old College project. Their commitment to sustainable design and innovative technologies will ensure that the refurbishment and retrofit adheres to the highest standards of environmental responsibility, fostering a greener and more efficient building.
RDM Electrical & Mechanical Services: With the company’s expertise in electrical and mechanical engineering, RDM Electrical & Mechanical Services will be instrumental in revitalising Old College. As one example, most recently Chris Lloyd, Project Manager for RDM Electrical & Mechanical Services, along with David Lucas of Reclaimed Radiators, assessed the building’s original vintage cast iron radiators. These radiators will be carefully refurbished, restored, and re-installed as part of the renovation, honouring the building’s history while incorporating modern functionality.
Old College history
The Old College holds a captivating historical narrative. Initially conceived as a grand railway hotel called the Castle Hotel, the building’s purpose took an unexpected turn. In 1867, the University Committee purchased the building for £10,000, establishing it as the first home of the University of Wales. Despite a devastating fire in 1885, the college persevered with the support of the Welsh community, leading to the construction of the Quad, the completion of the Old Hall, and the addition of the Library.
Over time, the Old College became a hub for pioneering teaching, research, and a gathering place for students, staff, and the community. However, as the University expanded and relocated its academic departments to a purpose-built campus, the Old College was left with untapped potential.
The big renovation project
In 2014, a joint feasibility study conducted by the University and the Welsh Government identified the strategic need for new University and community town facilities. It also presented a unique opportunity to revitalise the Old College, transforming it into a mixed-use facility that would not only breathe new life into the building but also stimulate social and economic regeneration in the region.
The revamped Old College will encompass a wide array of features and amenities, designed to cater to various interests and aspirations. Here are some of the highlights:
Y Cambria: This addition, made possible with the Levelling Up Fund (LUF) funding, includes the adjoining Cambria building. It significantly enhances the operating model of the Old College by providing additional hotel bedrooms, as well as spaces dedicated to community, educational, and cultural activities.
Atrium & Function Room: A stunning and welcoming space, the atrium will serve as the gateway to all seven floors of the Old College. It will connect visitors to the 31 hotel rooms and offer access to a new rooftop function room, providing breathtaking sea views.
Community Engagement: Students and the local community will benefit from major inspirational events and blockbuster exhibitions, usually only found in big cities. In collaboration with esteemed partners such as the National Museum Wales, Hay Festival, and the National Library of Wales, the Old College will become a hub for cultural exchange and intellectual growth.
Meetings & Dialogue: As a flagship project and the UK’s first Center for Dialogue, the Old College will feature a unique “in-the-round” setting, aimed at enhancing and developing young people’s proficiency in constructive dialogue. This space will foster discussions and debates among clubs and societies, external youth organisations, and host local, national, and international conferences.
World of Knowledge: To inspire accessible learning for all, the Old College will house a University Museum and a Centre for Science. Additionally, 24-hour safe student study spaces will be conveniently situated in the heart of the town, providing an ideal environment for academic pursuits.
Enterprise & Innovation: The Old College will feature a Business Enterprise Hub specifically tailored to young entrepreneurs in creative and digital businesses. This inclusive space will encourage the birth of new start-ups, empower individuals to start their own businesses, and contribute to the growth of the local economy.
Raven Delta Group, along with our many partners and stakeholders on the project, envision the Old College as a catalyst for positive change in Aberystwyth, Wales and beyond. By revitalising this architectural gem, we strive to create a cultural and creative haven that celebrates knowledge, nurtures talent, and fosters connections between communities. Contact us for more information.
Through our companies we provide Building Services Design and Consultancy, Specialist Innovation Consultancy, Environmental Consultancy, MEP Project Management and Delivery, Facilities Management, Planned Maintenance and environmental quality and compliance services.