St Mary’s House is an existing office building on the corner of Penarth Road and Trade Street, Cardiff. Rightacres Property Ltd built the building in the early 2000s.

It has 4 floors of office accommodation, a car park, and ancillary facilities. It was purpose-built for Arriva Trains Wales (later Transport for Wales).

The entrance to St Mary’s House was on Penarth Road, via a narrow ramp and stairs sitting under a canopy. For flood defence reasons, the ground floor accommodation level sits 400mm above pavement level.

The Problem

The reception space was not important to the original tenants. Only their staff used it, with very few visitors. For new tenants, the space appeared very compact, poorly lit, and unwelcoming.

When the tenants left in the summer of 2021, The building owner asked Gaunt Francis Architects to create ideas for reshaping the ground floor. The aim was to create a new vision for the entrance and reception which would be attractive to new tenants.

Our Approach

From careful research, GFA were aware of proposed new developments in the area and the planned improvements to Trade Street. Therefore, the critical design move was to relocate the entrance from the traffic-laden Penarth Road side, to the more pedestrian-friendly Trade Street.

The existing bin store position on Trade Street offered the opportunity to create a new level access entrance flush with the pavement. We enlarged the existing opening to create a new glazed entrance. A new cantilevered translucent canopy was also designed, running from the new entrance back to Penarth Road to act as the visual marker for the entrance.

Internally, we moved the bin store further into the car park. A new WC and shower block were also created here. The building enjoys a great location near Cardiff Central station, so the owner was happy to reduce the amount of parking to provide better facilities for the new reception.

The End Result

An internal ramp, large meeting room and modern reception desk complete the transformation of the reception area. Together, this creates a new space over 100 sq.m. bigger than the original.

Repainting and tidying up offices with new kitchen areas has been a big success. The opened-up spaces have created large open-plan floors, many offering fantastic views of new nearby developments.