Cardiff Royal Infirmary Coffee Shop & Library

A Grade II listed chapel restored and transformed into a community hub, library and meeting place.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board
Cardiff Council
December 2020


In 2017, the former chapel at Cardiff Royal Infirmary was vacant. The Grade II Listed building was in fair condition, but it had no purpose and sadly lost its place within the community.

With the chapel celebrating its centenary in 2021, it seemed like a fitting time to wake the building from its slumber.

Our clients, Cardiff & Vale University Healthboard and Cardiff Council, had a vision to restore and transform the building into a community hub, library, café, and meeting place to serve Cardiff Royal Infirmary Hospital and the wider city in a way which offered social, economic, and spiritual value.

A community asset

The chapel is beautifully positioned for people who live and work in and around Cardiff. Staff, CRI patients, along with families, young people and adults in the community can now easily access a range of facilities and services within the building.

A new library, forming part of the Cardiff Hyb network, provides health and wellbeing information to support the treatments available at the CRI clinics.

Bookable meeting rooms and an IT suite offer free Wi-Fi and can be used for anything from tuition and CV workshops to reading and conversation groups. The council is providing community courses, support, and IT facilities to encourage positive employment outcomes within Cardiff.

An Aroma café provides people with a memorable place to meet for lunch or relax with a coffee.

When the project was complete, our photographer, Tom Bright, chatted to Senior Associate Technologist, Karyn Williams, about breathing new life into an historically important building and delivering a valuable community asset.

A balance between new and old

The project was about creating a unique and impactful destination. So if you were going for a coffee, to pick up a leaflet, or have a meeting, you’d come away with a lasting memory of that experience.

Therefore, it was important to make a statement with interventions that respect the historic fabric but also embrace the new. Distinct, contemporary elements celebrate the chapel’s revitalisation and restoration within the community.

In the heavens

The design lifts you up into the roof-space with walkways sitting amongst the eaves. The eye-level glimpses of the stained-glass windows, organ pipes, and ceiling details offer special moments and reminders of the building’s previous life as a congregation space.

The creation of a floating pod allowed us to maximise the available footprint of the chapel. This addition provides enhanced flexibility of use but also responds to the physical and historic constraints of a listed building.

The pod is one of many interventions which can be easily reversed, allowing the chapel to be restored to its original use if necessary.

Light and colour

Throughout, sight lines and meeting room windows have been carefully aligned with the existing church windows allowing for views from the centre of chapel through to the sky outside.

When the sun shines through the stained-glass, colour floods the internal spaces. Walls are deliberately white to enhance the vibrancy and to allow the existing fabric to take priority on your senses.