Cardiff: Old & New

It’s a city felt by many local critics to have neglected so much of its history… bulldoze and re-build anew seems to be the fashion. Maybe the priorities of a few fat cats prevail, but Cardiff is Europe’s youngest capital city, and young needs to look shiny and new… doesn’t it?

Well, the city certainly needs to answer some questionable decisions regarding design and building priorities, and we can start by checking out the very locations where some of those answers may come from. Take the contrast between the domineering sight in the centre of the city located near to the castle, City Hall… Edwardian Baroque architecture opened in 1906, built of Portland Stone…

preferred post [4]

preferred post [3]

Meanwhile, languishing on the banks of the elegantly ignored Bute East Dock lies a compressed pagoda of a structure in the form of the more modern County Hall… opened in 1988 it represents a less imposing style of civic building…

county hall

Until we speak again, Cardiff may be littered with bog-standard corporate design choices, but look a little closer and the gems can still be found amongst the guano!

Student worship

Is it just in Cardiff? If you see any cranes on the horizon these days you can bet somewhere below rises the skeleton of the latest 21st century style of exclusive living… for students!

Cranes over Tindall Street [2]

 

So, how can we make appropriate provisions for these delicate modern day little flowers? A chapel to demonstrate our worship of their every need, including spiritual, maybe? Back in the day it was all about basement dive bars (or perhaps that was just my style of living!). However, here in Cardiff we may just have struck an ideal compromise… why not turn the place of worship into a bar cum restaurant?

Until we speak again, it would seem that most of the students that universities are now trying to attract can afford something a little more upmarket than my good old days of the pub crawl and kebab combination!

Perverse principles

With the advent of a Premier League season involving the locals just a matter of weeks away, I was struck by the all-important question…

What do you stand for?

Just what is my local city all about? What do we have to offer to the visiting hordes of demented football fans over the next 9 months? Everyone should be aware of the excellent shopping and nightlife, but what about sampling some unique street food?

Street Food seagull

Then there is our stylish way of preserving historic buildings…

Preservation What's left of the docks?

Our principled way of looking after endanger species doesn’t present any conflict with the pursuit of commerce…

Bear shop [2]

This is a place where you can get sea-sick just by standing still and looking at some of the buildings…

Car park [2]

But, we are proud of the fact that our great historical heritage stands tall (well, tall-ish) in the face of the advance of bland modernity…

Insurance [4]

Until we speak again, don’t let the dark gloomy clouds of potential defeat obscure the important decisions…

Bay & City Centre post

Hot air

It’s an uncharacteristically prolonged heatwave that blankets the UK in the summer of 2018, but where is it coming from? Meteorologists convey the simple message that high pressure dominates the scene, allowing stable and hot continental and tropical influences from the south to bathe the country in persistent warmth. But, those of us in the know have a different theory about the derivation of so much hot air… in England the source can be found in the Westminster area of London; but in Wales it is to be found in Cardiff Bay going under the pseudonym of the Senedd.

To some aficionados of architectural shenanigans it may simply be a giant beached manta ray, with its route back to the sea seemingly blocked by nothing more than a solitary lamppost!

Senedd 1

Propped up on a cushion of glass, it seemingly projects its message to all before it, through a menacingly oval aperture…

Senedd 2

For this is where Welsh politicians meet and pontificate in the bowels of the beast. The hot air produced is conveyed upwards to an unsuspecting world… through a sinister mushroom cloud, only it’s about as wooden as the occupants, and possesses none of the commensurate devastation usually associated with such a vision.

Senedd [8]

And, to the unsuspecting masses going about their daily business, the impact of the output is a slow burner… like a deadman’s handshake it is never seen but quietly stifles any ambition laid out before it.

Senedd [4]

Until we speak again, enjoy the hot air of the summer, as the politicians will largely be in recess!

 

Cool cats in Cardiff

Was that the ghost of Juno I saw looming over the Cardiff skyline the other day?

St Johns Church [3]

It’s funny how a distorted photograph can spark strange connections in the imagination. So, no, it turns out it was one of those rare ‘old’ buildings in the city. A recent TV programme called ‘Hidden Cardiff‘ set out the premise that the city cares little for its past, with the exception of Cardiff Castle and St. John’s Church. And the Juno vision turned out to be St. John’s Church

Night [1]

The original church was thought to have been built in 1180. But there is a certain irony in the above photograph, as it was ransacked by a rebellion led by Owain Glyndwr in 1404, and rebuilt later in the 15th century in the form it now takes… looking down on the Owain Glyndwr pub (as any ‘good’ beer lover would!).

It also seems to be a particularly ideal location for a somewhat pastoral ignoring of any fireworks across the pond in celebration of the American Declaration of Independence!

Old Cardiff pic [2]

Talking of distorted photographs and strange connections in the imagination… my New Orleans sojourns of 2017 have heightened my sensibilities to the presence of cool cats; and I recently noticed an example of the genre providing a different type of congregation at the site of St. John’s Church

Jazz band and St John's [1]

Until we speak again, listen out for Bass Twelve if you happen to be around Cardiff; or, if not, simply enjoy imaginary meanderings of your own!

Aqua Tower

As my loyal follower will be aware, there are some truly beautiful skyscrapers in Chicago. But, my favourite has to be the Aqua Tower, glimpsed here through the modernist Pritzker Pavilion structure in Millennium Park.

Millenium Park Pritzker Pavilion [4]

In our latest phase of righteous indignation at the inequality experienced by women in a so-called man’s world, it is refreshing to hear that this building is the tallest to-date to be designed by a female-led architecture firm, that of Jeanne Gang based in Chicago. It is credited with contours, vertical landscapes and undulating pools, projecting a striking outward appearance…

Aqua Tower [2]

The Aqua Tower is designed with green elements incorporated, such as roof gardens, and balcony patterns and glass tints to maximise solar shading and exposure.

Aqua Tower [3]

 

Within its finer details, the balconies are projections of the tower’s floors, as a means of creating outdoor terraces as communal spaces for residents.

 

Aqua Tower [1]

So, until we speak again, Juno and Bella would both have agreed… that if you want a thing of environmental beauty instead of a macho willy-waving pissing up the wall competition, the go-to person is quite probably a woman!

 

Icon revival

As much as I would like this heading to be applied to Juno and Bella, thus reversing two tragic demises of recent years, in reality it is an update for my loyal follower. The Coal Exchange building, deep in the heart of Mount Stuart Square, has been apparently left to rot and collapse through gross negligence by local and national Welsh administrations. How nice it is to refer to an ‘iconic’ status on perimeter hoardings, while the subject of said reference basks in a catastrophic state of neglect behind.

Coal Exchange board sign

Coal Exchange exterior decay [3]

Coal Exchange [6]

Coal Exchange approach

Rumour had it that developers of a boutique hotel would be the saviour of the building where the very first £1 million cheque was handed over. No, that’s a historical fact not an inflated cost of a suite in the proposed new hotel!

Well, in March 2017 there were distinctly positive signs, for those who hold a candle (rather than an incendiary device) to the preservation of Cardiff’s architectural heritage! Coal Exchange Mar 17

Then, just as Spring in May should bring a promise of new beginnings, so the revival of a favourite old building seems truly under way…

Coal Exchange May 17 [2]

Coal Exchange May 17 [3]

Coal exchange May 17 [4]

With extensive work still to be completed across most of the site, the ultimate sign of intent is captured… as bona fide hotel residents arrive to occupy some of the small number of rooms early opened.

Coal Exchange May 17 [6]

It seems that Signature Living have sympathetic plans for the regeneration of the building, that will recapture its historic past as well as provide a sustainable basis for looking forward. And while there will be the inevitable carping about handing a community resource over to a commercial venture, the photographs at the top of this post are evidence enough of the only other real alternative!

Until we speak again, Juno’s View promises to bring documented evidence of the interior in the near future. [However, in the interim period, behold views of Chicago and New Orleans coming here very soon!]