When Meccano met Lego

My home-based ‘frustrated architect‘ was busy regaling the BBC4 programme ‘The Brits Who Built the Modern World‘ last week. “If you are so enamoured by modern architecture what are you doing in Cardiff?” I asked. But it did get me appreciating the convenience of an in-house laptop with private photo library. Do I really want to ruffle my fur braving hurricane force gales bouncing February inside out, just to check out the local definition of iconic?

The BBC4 programme included a few old but cool cats by the names of Foster, Rogers, Grimshaw, Farrell and Hopkins …. some even referencing their childhood love of meccano as an influence on their later design ethic:

So I started to ponder where the Lloyds of London and Pompidou Centre of Paris was to be found in the cultural capital of Wales… when my mind drifted towards the Bay. There across the water stood an iconic location…

Across Bay [1]

… but is it the under-use of meccano, or is it the introduction of a distracting lego vibe that causes so many first-time visitors to ask “what on earth is that supposed to be?”

St Davids Hotel [9]

St Davids Hotel [1]

In all honesty, the same has been asked of the Lloyds & Pompidou buildings in their time, but I await with baited breath the remaining two episodes of the BBC4 programme to see if they spend any time reflecting on the architectural majesty of Cardiff Bay!

St Davids Hotel [2]

5-star accommodation is usually based on the luxury of the living space, but for those who can’t afford it (or access the necessary business account) the external aesthetic is what counts if locals are to take pride in their architectural icons.

St Davids Hotel [5]

But, perhaps the St. David’s Hotel on the Bay has more to offer if we take more than a churlish glance… how about an outdoor meeting with a view, or the curviliciousness that is less noticeable when the building is viewed from a distance?

St Davids Hotel [3]

St Davids Hotel [4]

Perhaps the hotel entrance and internal atrium offers further redemption, particularly for the internal decorators amongst you…

The restaurant may not offer value-for-money to the aficionados of Caroline Street style, but it may offer the ideal place for those who splash out on the special occasion; and those who can afford a loyalty card to place next to their Government/Banking membership cards. My ‘resident banker‘ went there over 10 years ago and tells me it suited the bill for a special family occasion, particularly with views out across the Bay while you eat. But it is up against a wide range of competition in the local area for all budgets.

Either way, it seems to a mere cat like me (no, not a meerkat!) that this architecture game is a bit like any other design or fashion based affair… you likes what you likes, and whatever reasons I have for my personal taste, no amount of reasoning will persuade the luddites who don’t agree with me! As for the definition of ‘iconic’ in local architectural terms, my guess is you will have to look to some of the older gaffs… watch this space for more lessons in the finer points of bricks and mortar, glass and steel, and the minutiae of what passes for design. Until we speak again I will sharpen my ‘Le Corbusier Juno’ persona.

[Images of Lloyds of London & Pompidou Centre, and a few of St. David’s Hotel are gratefully borrowed from google images to illustrate a point.]

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