A group of 5 terraced houses designed by Stewart Powell Bowen, architect, and built as a series of separate developments between 1966 and 1980.
In 1951 S Powell Bowen took over an architectural practice which had been established by his brother WJ Bowen in Colwyn Bay. The practice worked throughout N Wales, mainly designing domestic and ecclesiastical buildings. In 1970 Powell Bowen established the Bowen Dann Davies Partnership (BDD) with Frank Dann and Bill Davies, with offices in Colwyn Bay, Bangor, and later Rhyl. BDD were active in designing buildings for local authorities, as well as churches and private housing. The practice established a strong reputation for its housing work, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, and many of its developments were award winners. Notable schemes included the Cefndy Hostel for the learning disabled in Rhyl (1973-5, RIBA Award 1976 and Gold Medal for Architecture at the National Eisteddfod of Wales 1977), Hafan Elan housing for the elderly in Llanrug (1980, various awards incl. a RIBA Commendation 1982) and the Brooklands development in Old Colwyn (1975-82). After Powell Bowen’s death in 1982 BDD went on to design the Plas Menai National Watersports Centre (1983) regarded as one of the more influential examples of a modern Welsh architecture. After Bill Davies left the partnership Jonathan Knox joined and it became Bowen Dann Knox.
The houses at Pen y Bryn road were initially designed by Powell Bowen before the BDD partnership was formed. In them, he developed a modern vernacular style using low key and harmonious materials, forms and setting, which was pursued further in the later work of the partnership.
Each of the houses at Pen y Bryn Road was developed separately and given individual touches of layout and finish, but in accordance with a design guide provided by Powell Bowen. On this basis an overall scheme was developed, allowing for some flexibility in individual designs, though Powell Bowen retained the right to approve each one . No.9, the central house, was the first to be built, and was Powell Bowen’s own house. The houses either side (7 and 11) were constructed next followed by the end houses (5 and 15). No15 was built by the builder Jim Gorst.
Powell Bowen wanted the development to be different from conventional housing schemes of the time, especially those in the ‘middle-price range’. He wanted the houses to appeal on grounds of quality both in the house itself and in the landscape setting. The site was carefully selected and handled - the design utilised the views from the high ground but also set the buildings into the land to minimise their visual impact, using vertical stepping to accommodate to the slope of the site. The design of the development was intended to differ from the accepted rationale in which individual houses in a single development were differentiated by style. This conventional approach to development (seen especially in the more affluent detached development in Colwyn Bay itself) led in his view to too much ‘visual chaos’. Instead the development was intended to be harmonious and co-ordinated, so that although the individual houses would differ in plan, and layout, they would share the same high quality simple materials, all specified by Powell Bowen. Bill Davies produced perspective drawings showing the overall intended appearance of the development.
It was also important to Powell Bowen that each house and its space was private, so the principal rooms of each looked out onto a private south facing garden, screened from the houses on either side by the houses themselves (which are stepped in plan)or by garden walls. Importantly he decided to construct them as a terrace avoiding the dead space otherwise found in between detached houses, incorporating garages into the façade and maximising the building frontage along Pen y Bryn Road. He was also keen to create a naturalistic setting, using simple landscape design with no formal division (fencing) or planting , on the street frontage.
In this development, Powell Bowen gave expression to contemporary views on housing design, especially those of Nordic modernism, combined with an understanding of traditional Welsh building practices to create a distinctive vernacular style. Key to this was picturesque composition and the expressive use of materials, and the inter-relationship of internal and external space. He also sought to respond to the requirements of modern living by providing pragmatic and practical spaces and paid particular attention to provision of heating and insulation.