Page last updated at 12:33 GMT, Monday, 15 March 2010

Work begins on Bangor's 35m arts and innovation centre

Professor Merfyn Jones and Professor Fergus Lowe from Bangor University
Prof Merfyn Jones and Prof Fergus Lowe, of Bangor University

Design work has started on a £35m arts and innovation centre at Bangor University in Gwynedd.

The Pontio (bridging) Project will include an "innovation hub", teaching and learning facilities and a range of indoor and outdoor performance spaces.

The architect's initial designs will go on show to the public in April.

Bangor has been without a theatre since Theatr Gwynedd closed in October 2008, despite local protests to keep it open until a new arts centre was opened.

The building will connect the university's upper campus with the science site that runs along Deiniol Road in Bangor.

This is a once in a generation chance for Bangor
Professor Fergus Lowe, Bangor University

It will also incorporate a re-development of the existing College Park, and create a new home for the students' union.

The local economy is expected to be boosted with an estimated 450 jobs created or safeguarded during the construction phase.

"We are seeking to build bridges - to bring together the university with the wider community, using arts, sciences and exciting new combinations of them both," said Professor Fergus Lowe, the university deputy vice-chancellor.

Theatr Gwynedd Bangor
There were protests when Theatr Gwynedd closed in 2008

"The project is ambitious and iconic, and we believe it will have a transformative effect on all the people it touches," he added.

It would put Bangor "on the map" and help regenerate the city's urban heart, he said.

"It will provide a centre of such remarkable innovation and artistic excellence that it is sure to draw the attention of people from near and far, as well as providing new impetus to the growth of the north Wales economy," he said.

A partnership of companies has been appointed to design the building, including architects Grimshaws, who designed the Eden Project in Cornwall.

The initial designs will be unveiled in a public exhibition in April to give people an opportunity to share their views.

Present plans are for a 450-seat theatre, cinema space, rehearsal studio, and an outdoor amphitheatre, accompanied by facilities including bars, dining and park areas.

The "innovation hub" would bring together staff and students from different parts of the university to work on projects ranging from new technology for businesses to health research.

Professor Lowe added: "This is a once in a generation chance for Bangor... it will be a potent symbol of innovation and collaboration for the whole community."

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