The Earl of Wessex officially opens UWTSD’s ALEX Building on September 29, 2016


University of Wales Trinity Saint David was delighted to welcome The Earl of Wessex to officially open the University’s Swansea College of Art and Design ALEX Building on September 29, 2016.

The vibrant development in the heart of the city centre provides a thriving, creative environment for students, staff, alumni and visiting professionals. The Creative Quarter, which also includes the University’s Dynevor Centre, links closely with the development of UWTSD’s other campuses of innovation, responding directly to the needs of industry, building skills and exploiting knowledge and increasing graduate employability.

Earl of Wessex

The Earl of Wessex was greeted and welcomed by Professor Medwin Hughes, DL, UWTSD Vice-Chancellor, before embarking on a tour of the building with Dr Ian Walsh, Dean of the Faculty of Art and Design, where he met staff and students and the designers of the building, Powell Dobson Architects.

His Royal Highness also visited The Cerebra Innovation Centre (CIC) and met with a number of families being helped by the charity and UWTSD. The CIC was established in 2004 as a partnership between the University and Cerebra, a charity working with brain injured children. From its base in ALEX, the centre designs and manufactures individual products to assist children living with serious life-limiting conditions. Profits from commercialised products are fed back into CIC’s R&D activities.

The visit concluded with the unveiling of a plaque by The Earl of Wessex to officially open the ALEX Building.

Speaking during the ceremony, The Earl of Wessex said it had been an honour to explore the creative initiatives underway at The ALEX. “It is vital that there are centres of excellence like this that are using and driving creativity in this way and that’s what is going to drive this country forward,” he said. “I am honoured to be able to see the excellent work that you are doing here at the University and in particular the work that you are doing with Cerebra, using that imagination and creativity to solve the problems being faced by some of these families. Being able to help these families in the way that you have is so impressive to see first-hand.” 

Professor Medwin Hughes, DL, UWTSD Vice-Chancellor said: “We were delighted to welcome The Earl of Wessex to officially open the ALEX and showcase the wonderful work of our staff and students. It also allows us to celebrate the civic pride of this building and its importance to the history of the city. This Creative Quarter is an integral part of our wider plan to develop a Creative City Region strategy, which together with the University’s new Swansea SA1 Waterfront development, will drive forward a vibrant neighbourhood where people will come to study, work, live and spend their leisure time. The University’s academic activity will be at the core but it will also enable business and industry to collocate with us in the heart of Swansea.”

Dr Ian Walsh, Dean of UWTSD’s Swansea College of Art and Design said: “The visit by The Earl of Wessex to the ALEX Building marks the end of a journey which started in 2006. Over the last 10-years this magnificent historic building has been transformed. Its original vision as a beacon of excellence has been restored and once again it occupies centre stage as a seat of creative learning in the heart of Swansea."

Chris Jones, CEO of Cerebra, said: “The Cerebra Innovation Centre (CIC) based within the ALEX building is an initiative created from Cerebra’s partnership with the University.  We created the centre in order to provide high quality, innovative product solutions to help the families of children with a variety of brain conditions. Cerebra is a national charity for brain injured children and the CIC forms an extremely important part of our work.  Innovative product solutions are all about discovery. There is a certain magic in that and Cerebra is all about joining with families in order to take that journey of discovery. We listen to families, face up to their challenges, believe that for every challenge there is a solution and then discover that solution together. The Cerebra Innovation Centre epitomises that philosophy. It truly is a great innovation in itself.”

The ALEX Building plays host to a number of important centres of excellence. It provides state-of-the-art accommodation for Wales’ oldest Art Foundation Programme. UWTSD is the only University in Wales still running its own in-house art foundation which remains a key point of entry to Swansea College of Art.

Swansea Bay has the largest cluster of independent architectural glass practitioners in Europe. The Architectural Glass department at UWTSD, which celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2016/17, is unique in the UK and has a truly international reputation. Supporting the creative industries is fundamental to Swansea College of Art’s mission. Within the ALEX Building this is seen clearly in the work of the innovative 3D Computer Animation and Creative ComputerGames programmes.

The ALEX building is also home to the University’s Industrial Design department, which includes the only Automotive and Transport Design programmes in Wales plus the award winning Product Design programmes.

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Note to Editor

Since its opening by Gladstone in 1887 the vision for the ALEX Building has always been to provide an inspirational learning space for the people of Swansea and South Wales. Built as a library, gallery and school of art and science building in 1887, it soon became a much loved part of Swansea’s city centre. In 1987 the library was given a Grade II listing and in 2007, after 120 years serving the people of Swansea, the library relocated to the Civic Centre allowing the whole of the building to be fully adopted by the University.

The ALEX project involved stripping the building of its run down 20th Century additions to reveal a beautifully proportioned and elegant Victorian structure. In the process the heart and soul of the original building has been revitalised and infused with new life. The elevation and grandeur of the original façade has been restored with the reinstatement of the cupola that now crowns the central tower. The beating heart of the building is once more the graceful circular reading room. Under the glass dome of this previously neglected space new generations of scholars will once more be inspired to shape the world of tomorrow.

Complementing the Victorian splendour of the restored building is the new sustainably designed studio wing. Its clean lines and contemporary simplicity allow light to flood in and illuminate the south-western face of the original building. Coupled with the ‘Swansea Glass Beacon’ recently installed in the Tower Room, the new glass façade constitutes one of the most significant contemporary decorative glass installations of recent years. The new wing provides studio and exhibition space for designers and artists working across a range of disciplines.