Historic Swansea art gallery brought into 21st century

The Grade II-listed Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea has been modernised with an extension by architects Powell Dobson that uses low-profile structural glazing to help link the buildings.

The project involved adding a new gallery, community and education rooms, a lecture theatre and screening room, conserva- tion studios and collection stores to the existing gallery – a neo- classical brick and stone building completed in 1909. The works also created a new street level entrance, welcoming visitors with a much larger and brighter reception space.

When adding a modern extension to a historic building, creating a sensitive link between the two is an important consideration. In creating the extension, the designers were keen to preserve the impressive symmetry of the original facade, which meant creating a sense of physical separation between the extension and gallery.

At the same time, the two elements needed to be well connected internally, with free flowing circulation between the two. The solution was to enclose the linking part of the extension, set back from the building’s facades, in glazing.

This link means that the two elements are connected on three levels, making the building feel unified to visitors while also allow- ing the historic facade to be appreciated in isolation from outside.

The glazing also extends at ground level around the front of the extension, allowing light to flood into the new entrance area. The refurbished building features a glazed section of wall opening onto a garden across three floors, allowing light in and giving passers-by a glimpse of some of the artworks on display.

In total, 70 m2 of glazing from Pilkington Glass was used. In order to maximise insulation of the newly created space and ensure high levels of structural strength, double glazed units featuring one pane of 12 mm toughened glass and another of 13.5 mm laminated glass were used.

The outer pane features a low-emissivity hard coating to reduce the amount of radiated heat lost from the building. The frameless glazing is supported by a series of laminated fins which have been created from 21.5 mm thick glass.