Saturday 2 April 2016

Wales Millenium Centre in Cardiff Bay

Dominating the water front, the Centre comprises one large theatre and two smaller halls, shops, bars and restaurants. It houses the national orchestra and opera, dance, theatre and literature companies - a total of eight arts organisations in residence.

An international design competition attracted 268 international applicants and was won by Zaha Hadid. Her avant-garde design was so radical that she and a selection of other applicants were asked to submit revised designs for a second round of competition, which she again won with a 'sleek and dazzling complex of sharp lines and surfaces that she compared to an inverted necklace'. Her design was cancelled, when the government threw off the project, a decision she put down to prejudice against her being a woman and foreigner.

The present Centre was designed by Jonathan Adams. It's an impressive building and the dome is distinctive and memorable.

The Centre's main feature, the bronze coloured dome is clad in steel that was treated with copper oxide. It was designed to withstand the weather conditions on the Cardiff Bay waterfront and will look increasingly better with age. Inscribed on the front of the dome, above the main entrance, are two poetic lines, written by Gwyneth Lewis in Welsh and English. The lettering is formed by windows in the upstairs bar areas and is internally illuminated at night. The inscription in English reads:

In these stones

According to Lewis, 'the copper dome of the building reminded me of the furnaces of Wales' industrial heritage. I wanted to link that to medieval Welsh tradition, and Ceridwen's cauldron from which the poet Taliesin received his inspiration. I wanted the words also to reflect the architecture, to use its physical presence as a metaphor for our collective values as a nation'.

The exterior of the building is clad in multi-coloured slate collected from Welsh slate quarries. Narrow windows are built into the layers of slate to give the impression of rock, depicting different stone layers in sea cliffs.

Bands of hardwood line the walls inside the building, particularly the balconies.

The Glanfa mural by Helen Bur to commemorate the Women of the World festival, is one of the first things you notice when entering the building.

Curves abound

The lettering of the dome as seen from the first floor area

Etched glass on the mirror in the bar area

The mural seen from above

A WWII shelter had been built in the reception area on the ground floor.

The recordings we could hear inside are of genuine WWII air raid bombings.

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