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Holder Mathias celebrates 40 years of major success SiYn Barry; Architect's practice started in 1969 above a Cardiff garage.

Byline: Sin Barry

ONE of Wales' leading architect firms, Holder Mathias Architects, is celebrating its fortieth anniversary in business this month. Set up in 1969, Holder Mathias has grown from a makeshift office above a garage in Cardiff to become a regular fixture in the official Top 100 list of UK architectural firms, as recognised by the Architect's Journal, and has won the publication's Wales regional award for the past two years.

The practice is now owned by eight partners and has an annual turnover of pounds 5.25m, employing 80 staff from its studios in London, Cardiff and Munich.

Its Welsh projects include Glamorgan University's creative industries Atrium campus, the Cardiff City Football Club's new stadium - and the nearby athletics arena - and the Princess Way shopping development in Swansea.

Its notable UK projects include the pounds 90m St Stephen's retail scheme in Hull, which won the RICS' Regeneration Project of the Year award last year, the critically-acclaimed luxury spa at Lucknam Park Hotel Wiltshire, and projects for client Center Parcs at its sites in Cumbria and Woburn.

The practice has also designed a number of retail outlets across Europe such as a designer outlet in Brennero, Italy, and the Forum Steglitz Centre in Berlin.

Holder Mathias is also the lead architect for the Welsh Investment Strategic Partnership, a consortium led by Amber Infrastructure and backed by the Welsh Assembly Government, which has designed projects across South and West Wales, including the Ellipse development in Swansea.

Peter Mathias, director and co-founder of Holder Mathias, said: "This is a significant milestone for the practice and gives us a chance to reflect on what we have achieved over the past 40 years.

"Fundamental to the success of the practice during this time has been to create a secure business framework and an environment within which quality design and good designers can flourish.

"We have a client base that is spread across the UK and we are increasingly being commissioned for work in Europe as well.

"Although the industry, like many others, has been hit by the recession, building on these strong links at home and across the rest of Europe will form a pivotal role in how we move forward as a practice."

Upon completing his architectural studies in Manchester, Mr Mathias returned to Cardiff in 1969, where he and Tim Holder formed The Holder and Mathias Partnership. The two, who were later joined by Bryan Alcock, saw the practice grow rapidly during the Seventies, leading to the opening of a London office in 1978. At the beginning of the 1980s, the practice secured major projects such as the Cromwell Hospital, London, and the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend.

One of the milestones came in the late 1970s when the practice secured a small but growing dairy company in Leeds as a repeat client - Associated Dairies - that was the forerunner of Asda.

As a result, the practice's experience in retail and town centre work was expanded with projects across the UK.

In 1984, the practice achieved another big break when it persuaded a major national developer to successfully bid with it for the redevelopment of the Bute East Dock, now known as Atlantic Wharf, which was the first step in the creation of a new waterfront in Cardiff Bay.

Holder Mathias moved to the Bonded Warehouse in 1987, remodelling the building as part of its role in Atlantic Wharf. The practice went on to master plan the eastern side of Cardiff Bay and, to date, has completed more than 30 projects in one of Europe's most successful urban regeneration projects.

At the same time, a growing reputation in London led to several substantial residential commissions, including Free Trade Wharf on the banks of the Thames just east of Tower Bridge.

Despite the recession of the early Nineties, the practice went on to secure milestone projects such as the pounds 125m Oasis Holiday Village in Cumbria, now Center Parcs, which has since become an established client.

Holder Mathias has since evolved into a European practice and, after establishing a partnership in Munich in 1999, it has had continued involvement in retail projects across Europe.

Mr Mathias said: "When we first started out, our thinking was that if we could survive a year then maybe we could survive five years, and if we could survive five years then maybe we could survive a bit longer. "You don't envisage surviving for as long as 40 years when you start out - you simply have to take things as they come and reach those targets along the way."


LIFE BEGINS AT FORTY: Peter Mathias looks forward to the future with his team of directors, but when he started out his thinking was just to survive the first year
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 29, 2009
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