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Post war marvel: One of a kind concrete bin is saved from scrapheap

15 Sep 2021 4 minute read
Top left – the concrete bin that was saved. The other images are of concrete bins in Swansea that no longer exist. (Credit: Catrin James)

David Owens

On first look the concrete bin stood in the shopping precinct doesn’t look particularly remarkable.

However, that would belie its status as a rarity. A one of a kind post-war marvel. The last remaining concrete bin in Swansea.

The bin which dates from 1961, situated at Dyfatty shopping precinct, was to be demolished as part of the regeneration of the area – until local historian Catrin James intervened and rescued it from the rubbish tip.

While there were other similar concrete bins in Swansea, this is the only one that remains.

The 60-year-old example of post-war design has now been safely installed within Swansea Museum’s post-war collection.

The bin that has been saved – at Dyfatty shopping precinct (Credit: Catrin James)

Catrin says that the reclaiming of the bin is a little “modernist history claimed from disappearing into post war architecture heaven”.

“I got in touch with the local housing organisation Coastal and Swansea Council who were redeveloping the shopping precinct,” she said.

“I could see the bin would be gone very soon and I needed to make sure it had a future to tell a story.

“The bin represents the rebirth of Swansea post the bombing of the 3 Nights Blitz in 1941, modern redevelopment and creating new, clean council or now called social housing for the people of Swansea. Which was the forward thinking ethos of councils of this period to house people in well designed housing influenced by the Modernist town planning of Europe.

“Street furniture is important as social design. Being concrete meant it was a new material for the period to mould for street furniture and it was hardy.”

Another of Swansea’s concrete bins – pictured in 1971 (Credit: Catrin James)

As for its removal, it was thankfully a simple task.

“The building manager of the site was really interested in why I wanted to save it and was really into the fact that Swansea Museum would like to take it for their collection,” said Catrin. “It was easy to remove and it was in great condition.

“Swansea Museum’s post war collection is an actively ongoing collection. New objects are accepted if they tell a tale and have an interesting back story and are unique to Swansea. The collection has oral histories, photographs, items of clothing, music, sculpture and objects – Now we have the last concrete bin to represent post war architecture details in the city – I’m calling myself its Honorary Curator!”

Preservation society

Catrin is a member of the Swansea Modernist Society and a board member of the Twentieth Century Society Cymru, which both aim to give recognition to post war buildings in Swansea and across Wales.

“At a time when beautiful 1950s and 1960s period details are being white washed away, the aim is to highlight the positive focus on the design of the period and help give those who are interested some meat to the bones of the period,” says Catrin.

“Next year there will be events like talks and a tour of post war Swansea starting at Swansea Museum where the bin will be on display.

“There will also be a publication from The Modernist Society which I am putting together, which will be available next year.

Swansea Cvic Centre – a prime example of Brutalist post-war architecture (Credit: Catrin James)

“We have a wealth of architectural examples from our 1960s futuristic-looking Catholic Churches to our under threat Brutalist behemoth Civic Centre, which is an absolute beauty to our mile square of a city centre that has unique gems like our Kardomah Cafe with its original 1957 interior run by the same Italian family.

“Much of the city centre is built to the Modernist dream of Ernest Morgan who was Swansea’s County Borough Architect from the Edwardian Period to Post War.

“From a Wales wide view, as a board member of the Twentieth Century Society Cymru – we are actively researching 20th century buildings at risk or under threat of demolition where we are able to carry out consultations to try and list these buildings.”

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