New School Taking Shape at Groeslon, North Wales

The new Area Primary School at Groeslon near Caernarfon, North Wales, is really taking shape.


The 180 capacity school, for Gywnedd County Council, will provide modern facilities and quality learning environments for the children of the Groeslon, Carmel and Bronyfoel catchment areas. Located on the site of one of the existing schools, the new buildings replace previous poor quality prefabricated accommodation, but the original Victorian school house is retained and incorporated this within the design.  New classrooms, group rooms and practical areas wrap around the existing site, creating a sheltered court yard development.


The school has been sensitively designed to work within the surrounding context of the local vernacular by replicating the built form to create the feeling of a collection of white rendered, slate roofed traditional Welsh cottages.  These buildings are joined by a series of metal clad links, introducing an element of contemporary detailing.

The design incorporates several features to reduce carbon emissions, starting with a ‘fabric first’ approach with high levels of insulation and good air-tightness, the scheme includes large areas of roof mounted Photovoltaic Panels and a Heat Exchanging Passive Ventilation system to minimise the heating and cooling loads of the building, with a ‘wind-catcher’ stack on the roof of each classroom.  The orientation, micro-climate and built form have all been carefully considered to allow the new area school to benefit from passive solar gain and plentiful natural light.


The new £4.2million school is being built by local contractors, Watkin Jones  and is due to be open in September 2015.

Exhibition of Architecture at the National Eisteddfod 2013

Leonie Wainwright and Gethin Jones from our Hawarden office have together designed and co-ordinated the construction of the 2013 National Eisteddfod Exhibition of Architecture at the Arts and Crafts Pavilion at the Eisteddfod in Denbighshire.


Concept Model of the Exhibition

As Council members of the North Wales Society of Architects, they have curated the exhibition which aims to raise design awareness for exemplar buildings in Wales.  Showcasing ten buildings from across the country, the exhibition features an interactive ‘Guide to Good Design,’ inviting visitors to evaluate the ten schemes and vote for their preferred scheme.


The exhibition has involved co-ordination with the Design Commission for  Wales and the Royal Society of Architects in Wales, with the stand hosting the presentation ceremony for the Eisteddfod Gold Medal and the Plaque of Merit winners on Saturday 3rd August.  The stand was also visited by the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, on Monday 6th August, where Leonie and Gethin explained the key concepts behind the design of the stand and the work exhibited.


The National Eisteddfod of Wales runs from the 2nd – 10th August 2013 at Kilford Farm on the outskirts of Denbigh.

Ainsley Gommon Staff sail from Liverpool to Salford Quays on the Manchester Ship Canal


On the 26th April staff from the Birkenhead and Hawarden offices braved bracing winds and enjoyed a day aboard the ‘Snowdrop’, one of the Mersey’s historic ferry boats.  The day began at Liverpool’s famous World Heritage Site on the waterfront by the Three Graces, where 19 members of staff boarded the Ferry and crossed the River Mersey before entering the Manchester Ship Canal at Eastham Locks.

Liverpool Waterfront

The Snowdrop’s official guide provided in depth commentary along the length of the Canal, which is one of Britain’s most important waterways, and explained how the Canal had shaped the industrial heritage of the region.

The route of the Canal passes by the Stanlow Oil Refinery before heading towards Runcorn’s landmark suspension bridge through a mix of industrial heritage environments as well as open areas of wetland habitats that support a variety of wildlife.


Sailing through fascinating industrial locks and under a variety of different bridges the journey illustrated  feats of engineering which have remained largely unchanged since their construction in the 1890’s, over 100 years ago.


The journey into Salford Quays illustrated an area which has experienced major urban regeneration within the last 15 years, beginning with the completion of the Lowry in 2000.  In the following decade large scale sustainable redevelopment has been undertaken, including the construction of the Imperial War Museum North, numerous retail, commercial and residential buildings and two new public foot bridges crossing the Canal.

salford quays-2

After disembarking the Ferry in Salford Quays and assembling  for our annual staff group photo by the boat, staff then enjoyed a walkabout tour around the newly completed MediaCityUK development.  This includes new buildings for the BBC and the University of Salford.  Before returning back to Liverpool we walked around the dock basins which were being used for recreational purposes including water skiing, while on the opposite bank to the BBC complex we noted the progress being made by Granada who are currently building their new studios for Coronation Street .

AGA Staff on the Manchester Ship Canal

Birkenhead Priory reopens following major restoration and improvement works

Merseyside’s oldest building Birkenhead Priory and the Grade II listed St Mary’s Tower has recently reopened following a £735,000 refurbishment programme.  The buildings had been in need of repair and maintenance following a lack of attention in recent years and the site had been placed on English Heritage’s at risk register.  The works undertaken included stonework repairs, accessibility improvements, cast iron window refurbishment, improvements to the external works and internal remodeling and redecoration.

Following the reopening, local paper the Liverpool Echo printed a full page article featuring the restoration works with comments from Ainsley Gommon Director Alf Plant.  To read more about the project click on the image below to enlarge the newspaper article:

liverpool echo priory

The Liverpool Echo have also featured a slideshow of large scale images of the newly reopened Birkenhead Priory on their website, which can be viewed here.

The opening was well attended by the local press and further articles about the project can be found by following the links below:

Bay TV Liverpool

Wirral Globe

Liverpool Daily Post

Rachel returns to her old College to design new £3.5 million Education Centre

One of our Architects Rachel Clegg has recently returned to her old College to oversee the development of a new £3.5 million education centre.  Rachel achieved her A-Levels at Birkenhead Sixth Form College in 2001 and has now returned to act as Project Architect for a new Science, Arts and Learning Support Centre at the College.

Birkenhead Sixth Form College

Rachel is pictured above with Birkenhead Sixth Form Principal Kathryn Podmore and Ainsley Gommon Director Steve Geary.  The project has recently featured in the local press, where you can read more about Rachel and her involvement with the scheme:

Liverpool Echo

Wirral News

Wirral Globe

Bay TV Liverpool

Life Skills Centre, Northop College

The Life Skills Centre at Northop College was completed in November 2012, and we’ve recently had chance to revisit the building to take some final photographs.



The new Centre is part refurbishment and part new build, providing facilities for teaching important life and domestic skills to College students with a range of learning difficulties.  The scheme opened up the area around an existing 1970’s single storey teaching block to provide a new wrap around extension and improved external landscaping.



The existing building underwent full internal refurbishment and remodelling in line with the new extension, with the completed Life Skills Centre providing two  teaching classrooms, specialist art and IT rooms, a purpose designed ‘kitchen’ classroom with domestic worktop bays and ‘dining area’ allowing household tasks to be replicated, welfare facilities, staff offices and a meeting room.  A common room provides a social meeting space for the students and occupies a prominent curved corner of the building, allowing access out to an external seating seating area to make the most of the elevated site position with views out over the wooded landscape to the River Dee.



Within the building, teaching, circulation and welfare spacing are all generous to aid navigation, with rooflights and large windows creating a light, bright feeling within the building, an important design feature for students with learning disabilities.  A simple palette of external materials has been used with off-white render and larch cladding, with elements of colour introduced in key areas helping to give the Centre a distinct individual identity.  An orange fin wall visually separates the old building from the new and is complemented by purple and grey infill panels within the glazing.  Students from the College contributed to the external landscaping, implementing planting and turf laying skills learnt on Courses at the College.


The Main Contractor for the Life Skills Centre was Read Construction and the project was completed for a build cost of £655,000.  For further information and photographs of the project visit the project page on our website.


Affordable Housing Schemes in North Wales

Ainsley Gommon Architects have been busy working with Pennaf Housing Group to submit two affordable housing schemes in North Wales for planning approval.

Lon Goch, Amlwch

Affordable Housing at Lon Goch, Amlwch

The first is a development of eight terraced houses in Amlwch on the Isle of Anglesey which have been designed to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 3+.  Located on the site of a former abattoir, the new homes take inspiration from the local terrace vernacular and provide a mix of three and four bedroom homes.  Although contemporary in appearance, the white render and timber clad homes have been designed to emulate the rhythm found in the surrounding typically Welsh village streets.


The energy efficient houses have south-facing living spaces, high levels of natural light and will support roof mounted photovoltaic panels.  The scheme responds to the growing need to consider adaptability with the homes designed to be easily re-planned internally or extended to meet changing housing needs.  

The second development at Glan Gors in Wrexham is more traditional in appearance in response to the location within an existing residential area.  The development of fifteen houses and eight flats is a partnership scheme between Pennaf Housing Group and Wrexham County Borough Council and provides much needed affordable housing within Caia Park on the outskirts of Wrexham town centre.

Glan Gors, Caia Park

Affordable housing at Glan Gors, Caia Park, Wrexham

Located on the underused corner of a large playing field, the homes are designed to meet Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4 and are orientated to provide positive frontages to both the road and the view over the playing field.  Staggered elevations, variable massing and a mix of house types create a varied streetscape, which breaks away from the repetitive linear blocks that currently exist in the area.