Swansea Modern


I must confess I wasn't expecting much from my visit to Swansea given that Wales had allowed its finest example of Modern architecture, the Brynmawr Rubber Factory to be demolished in 2001 and the mediocrity of much recent development, but I stumbled upon a few gems. Swansea suffered badly in the blitz of 1941 so the buildings in the city centre are mostly post-war.  

Our first stop, purely for the purposes of stocking up on food was the Indoor Market, a great steel arched hall built in 1961.  The hall is an interior space surrounded by shops on three sides, with an inaccessible service yard on the south side, so you aren't really aware of its form from outside. The retail buildings surrounding it are prosaic and suggest nothing of the drama of the space inside. Perhaps the structure was considered too functional when it was built to be given a civic presence.

You enter through one of three passages between the shops and emerge into the light of the hall with its original 60s clock and signage. The market paraphernalia all happens below the springing height of the arches so there is a satisfying contrast between the frenetic micro-scale of the ground level and the clear space above. Most interestingly there are several stalls selling straight-off-the-griddle hot Welsh cakes.

Market-Swansea-Bizley Architect

Coming out of the market I spotted a curved brick wall in the distance belonging to this rather splendid little building on the corner of Portland Street and Park Street. It is the Kardomah Coffee Shop which miraculously retains its original interior from when it was built in 1957. Kardomah once owned a chain of coffee shops around the UK but this is the last survivor. The original Kadomah in nearby Castle Street was destroyed in the Second World War and was once a hang out of Dylan Thomas, a fact commemorated in a quote in neon on the building's side facade. 

Kardomah-Cafe-Swansea-brick-entrance-sign-tiles copy.jpg

Original chairs, Formica tables and desert trolley.  If you don't fancy the trifles or the coffee & walnut cake you could always have a Kitkat:


On the way out of Swansea we drove south around Caswell Bay. Overlooking the bay are the Redcliffe Appartments, a five storey block built in the 1960s, some of which are available to rent as holiday lets.  


Slightly inland from Caswell Bay is the Summercliffe Chalet Park, a cluster of single storey holiday houses cascading down the valley in neat lines like something out of A Swiss housing development.


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