Utopian village


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About the project Edit

Portmeirion is a private Italianate village in North Wales that was created by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, an eccentric multimillionaire, using a combination of rescued architectural follies and specially designed buildings which provide a fascinating mix of architectural styles conceived in order to serve as an utopian city accessible to local people with limited resources who could not afford to travel the world. The village is most famously known for having served as the nigthmarish village in the cult series of the 60s: The Prisoner.

Portmeirion was born out of William-Ellis’s dream and vision to create an extraordinary fantasy town. After buying the town from his uncle in 1925 for something under £5,000, he started building the major features of the village such as the campanile and the dome quickly, like an artist delineating a scene with a few brush strokes before filling in the detail. From 1926 to the end of his long and fruitful life he added continuously to the village, his 'home for fallen buildings', as he called it. There are columns, a shell grotto (with a very low roof the top of which doubles as the Belvedere Outlook), arches, fountains, statues, paths, the Gloriette, steps, cottages, balconies, cobbles, gateways and every other imaginable form of explorable architecture.

Portmeirion is now owned by a charitable trust, and has always been run as a hotel, which uses the majority of the buildings as hotel rooms or self-catering cottages, together with shops, a cafe, tea-room and restaurant. Portmeirion is today a top tourist attraction in North Wales and day visits can be made on payment of an admission charge.

In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

Williams-Ellis designed and constructed the village between 1925 and 1975. He incorporated fragments of demolished buildings, including works by a number of other architects. Portmeirion's architectural bricolage and deliberately fanciful nostalgia have been noted as an influence on the development of postmodernism in architecture in the late twentieth century.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

Portmeirion design is a tribute to the atmosphere of the Mediterrean with strong influence from the town of Portofino in Italy (hence the town’s name). The Utopia of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis was its desire to make architecture accessible to the Welsh population who who could not afford a trip to Italy. In this sense, Portmeirion can be regarded as of socialist inspiration.

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