Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Welsh Assembly

Front view of the Senned
On my January visit to Cardiff I chanced upon the second devolved parliament of Britain that is not housed in an ordinary building (I haven't yet had the chance to visit Belfast, but I imagine Stormont to be a more traditional building). The Welsh National Assembly building is located in the bay area of the town next to the iconic Millenium Centre.

The debating chamber's walls become the roof
The building was finished in 2006 and it projects the image of transparency, openness.One also notices the prominent use of natural materials such as wood and glass. The steps in front of the glass portal of the building covered by the wavy, overhanging roof made of wood are inviting to the public and fit well into the area with the sea nearby and the rainy English weather. The whole building suggest looking out to the sea, the people and looking forward to the future, as well as invitingly offering shelter.

Openness and friendliness are not just an architectural feature. The staff is very friendly and the whole operation of the Assembly reinforces this feeling. The building is open to the public and anyone can just wander in. When I was there, question time was underway and we could simply go into the viewing gallery to watch the proceedings.
The debating chamber. Photo: Anne Siegel, CC-BY 2.0

The debating chamber should be imagined like an onion still planted in the ground: in the inside core (on the ground floor, but one level down from the elevated baseline of the open inner areas of the building) there is the round debating chamber, separated by a glass wall and one floor higher there is a viewing gallery and all this is encapsulated by the wooden walls that form the skin of the onion and also it continues to become the roof. The roof has a wavy shape that resonates with the nearby sea and can be imagined as the leaves of the onion, sticking out of the ground.
The viewing chamber with little TVs and headphones for the interpretations. Photo: CC-BY 2.5

This onion shaped inner core is surrounded by the committee rooms on two sides with glass walls (again building on transparency) and there is a gallery in the middle which is an open space that has some comfy chairs and can be filled with chairs for various events.
The open space above the debating chamber. Photo: CC-BY-2.5

On the ground floor there is a gift shop where they sell Wales related items and almost anything branded with the logo of the Assembly, the most interesting among them is the Devolution brew beer.

Devolution brew from the gift shop

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