Caernarfon Criminal Justice Centre

The new Criminal Justice Centre at Caernarfon has just opened.

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    BBC 23 April 2009

Obviously the old courts were hopelessly inadequate so this, and of course the expansion in size, is going to enable Caernarfon to function properly as the main centre of justice for North West Wales. That's something good.

It is also, I think it's fair to say, one of the main reasons why the outskirts of Caernarfon were chosen as the location for the new prison in North Wales, as talked about here.

     

     

It's easy to be pleased with any new building just because its new, and it certainly seems to have all the right facilities. Yet it does strike me that this is by no means as good a building as it could have been. The interior in particular seems very bland; the exterior, although not so bad in abstract terms, doesn't appear to sit very happily on the site.

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Judging from this shot, it is enormously bulky. The architects have done what they can to break up that bulk, but the top section and rear extension, which must both surely be visible from miles around, is a jumble.

However my main disappointment is that there is no sense of civic "presence". It's a building on one of the main roads out of the town, but it's just sitting on the street like any office building would. The chance to create its own focus as a public place which is simply nice to be in has been lost.

Some of this will obviously be down to the fact that it's a PFI building (CityHeart), but most of it is simply down to trying to squeeze too much onto a site that isn't really big enough for it. For that reason there's no room for any proper external public space: a square or courtyard with some sort of landscaping, a fountain or sculpture.

It's just one big ramp to get you up to the front entrance, which just faces the road. But the only reason why anyone needs to get up that far is probably because there's so much that had to be put into the lower floors.

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Whatever, it will be a fixture in Caernarfon for many years to come and, in case anyone thinks I'm being too critical of it, it's obviously far better than the County Court building on the other side of the road.

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Sirol, but sadly not Siriol.

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