Aberdare Hall is on Corbett Road, at the northern end of the University’s Cathays Campus, a ten to fifteen minute walk from the city centre. The campus area is fanked to the west by (the wonderful) Bute Park, and to the east by the classic student residential districts of Cathays and Roath, all terraced houses from the era of the industrial revolution.
The Cathays campus area is also known as Cathays Park, and is the civic centre of Cardiff. As well as the university buildings, it includes the town hall, the administrative headquarters of the Welsh National Government, Cardiff Crown Court, theTemple of Peace, and the National Museum and National Gallery of Wales, all set around Alexandra Gardens. The majority of the buildings are Grade I or II listed and they all fall within the Cathays Park Conservation Area, as does the site.
The Cathays Park buildings are built of, or clad in, Portland stone, and most were originally built between 1900 and 1920. The buildings are large in scale; many reference Greek architectural styles with classical proportions and features like porticos, columns and statues. The style of this area is quite distinct from other parts of Cardiff, much of which is typical of Victorian/Edwardian development – extensive terraces providing homes and sometimes workplaces for those brought to the area by its rapidly expanding industry.
Aberdare Hall is at the north end of Cathays Park, opposite the National Welsh Assembly building. It was built in 1893 as part of what was then the University College of Wales to promote the education of women in Wales, and it has remained an all-female hall as part of the university ever since. The building itself is a late-Victorian brick building which runs around two sides of the courtyard to the rear of the site. In addition to its residential role, it also offers boardroom dining facilities to the University and a staff dining club, sometimes used for moderately fancy functions. The Hall is now next to the newer music department, which opened in 1971 and is characterised by its bold brick facades, tall, narrow windows, and the bronze Hepworth sculpture on the grass at its entrance.
It’s also a proposed site for the student retreat which is our project this year. It’s sheltered, peaceful, close to the heart of Cathays but removed from all the hectic movement of Park Place. There are some access issues, but it’s a good candidate.