Frân Wen

With a focus on supporting young people from low-income backgrounds to take part in the arts, Frân Wen works to create exciting, challenging and inspiring Welsh- language theatre. The group’s new home, named Nyth (“nest” in Welsh) in the former St Mary’s Church in Bangor, provides state-of-the-art rehearsal spaces in which to hone skills in performance, scriptwriting and technical disciplines.

Our approach respected the architecture of the Grade II-listed Victorian building, introducing vital conservation work and essential repairs to meet the needs of future users, opening up the building to the surrounding landscape and significantly expanding the capabilities of the site. Nyth now provides three main artistic spaces, with the biggest accommodating up to 80 guests. Technical facilities include sound and lighting equipment, costumes and props, workshop tools and screens for presentations. The young company now has access to a green room and there are dedicated offices and meeting rooms for Frân Wen’s admin team. The extensive outdoor area can be used for open-air rehearsals and community events.

We took inspiration from the names of both Frân Wen (‘White Raven’ and Nyth (‘Nest’), recycling as many materials from the site as possible, in the same way that a bird sources fallen twigs and branches to assemble its nest. Pipes from the organ, ceramic tiles, and stone from demolished walls have all been reclaimed and repurposed, and 90% of the church’s wooden pews were reinvented as wall panelling, doors and joinery.

The material palette is raw and honest, comprising natural stone, sanded lime plaster, concrete and galvanised metal, with painting kept to a minimum. This results in a naturally calm aesthetic which retains a sense of place and history, constructed from materials that will patinate over time, acquiring character as they age.

Because the site is within a residential area, it was essential that any natural ventilation didn’t result in noise pollution. The large openings required to allow airflow in and out work against good sound insulation, which demands a sealed building envelope. We squared this circle by designing a series of acoustic chambers, each of which are lined with sound-absorbing material, to enable performances to let it go, volume-wise, without disturbing the neighbours.

Energy is sustainably provided from air source heat pumps. All the theatre equipment, control and LED lighting are energy efficient. Renovation work was completed using locally sourced materials and FSC-certified timber. Significant enhancements to the landscape, designed to optimise habitats for native plant and wildlife species, were made under the guidance of an ecologist and the North Wales Wildlife Trust.

Photography by Morgan O’Donovan