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!


Wind Power

Wind turbines: Wind turbines 'killed goats' by depriving them of sleep    As an indoor cat I don’t usually give much thought to the whole issue of renewable energy supplies, so long as at this time of year my in-house heating engineer remembers to turn the damn radiators on. But, there I was one day, minding my own business and continually being  
interrupted by the background noise of some BBC Radio programmes, when some political dude starts rapping on about the state of the planet, and how all you humans are ruining it for cats like us. Plotting an escape

Now I’m not averse to a little breeze around the whiskers from time to time, but this whole wind power thing seemed to be political dude’s answer to all of our problems. Only for a whole bunch of what were called NIMBY’s (Not in my back yard) to phone in proclaiming nothing but an ugly end to our beautiful environment. It seemed to a sophisticated cat like me that the whole political thing generates enough wind to keep me going in cat food for an eternity.

Then it dawned on me… perhaps local politics held a solution! With all of the recent passionate UK attention generated by politics in Scotland, followed by the immediate low point of interest generated by a bunch of numpty’s voting in the looney tunes of Ukip in the English constituency of Clacton, Senedd 1perhaps it would be to Wales, and more specifically my adopted home of Cardiff that we should turn for sustainable sources of wind.
There it was, right on my doorstep, the beached wooden stingray, aka The Senedd, aka the home of the Welsh Assembly… the ultimate source of hot air dressed up as a local seat of power!

On closer inspection it would appear the design of the building, whilst admirably made up of home grown sustainable sources of wood, steel and slate, also had the structural foresight for the job… the politicians are densely housed deep in the basement of the building, and directly above them is the large funnel for capturing the hot air…

Senedd [7]

Senedd [1]

Whilst panoramic views of Cardiff Bay are afforded out of the glass-lined walls, I couldn’t help but think that this also doubled-up as a means of bringing light into proceedings on those occasions when the incumbent politicians were away from their energy-sapping deliberations, desperately searching for the elusive voter.

Senedd [4]

It seems like all of the heat and air generated by debates on the relationship between the Westminster bubble and the Cardiff Bay mushroom has caused structural damage through severe bowing of The Senedd roof…Senedd [8]

… so my next question is where to store all of this wind power to ensure our sustainable energy supplies? The Millenium Stadium has a closable roof and vast acres of space… what goes on in there most of the time? Until we speak again this has been Political Juno engaging the wrath of a nation’s rugby fans.

Older and bolder

For any cats around the world stowing away on boats, determined that Cardiff is their desired destination (and why not I say!), you will know when you have arrived. The magnificent Pierhead Building will be there to greet you. For all of the modern development of the former world famous docks into the Cardiff Bay ‘leisure and government administration zone’, the eye can’t help but be drawn in by the older building.

Across Bay [4]It was designed by a Welsh Englishman named William Frame (1848-1906), because nothing in Wales is that straightforward. But there is no doubt about the 100% Welsh materials making up the French-originated design… Ruabon in North Wales was apparently known as ‘Terracottapolis‘ for the Etruria marl clay that forms the base of the distinctive terra cotta materials. It was paid for by a Scotsman, John Crichton-Stuart (3rd Marquess of Bute); so all that were needed were Irish and Italian builders or visitors for the locally revered ‘Six-Nations Rugby’ to be represented in the one building! It took 3 years in construction, opened in 1897, and cost a mere £30,000… which would realistically only pay for the furniture for us cats to sharpen our claws on in today’s prices.

Cardiff Bay sweep 5As I stroll around the Bay area I can do nothing but purr contentedly at the framing of this building from different angles. The Gothic revivalist architecture contrasts with the modern buildings surrounding it, with its strong lines and attention to detail marking it out against the sweeping and blander images of some of its modern neighbours.

Pierhead Building [1]

Close inspection lets you know the original purpose of this Grade 1 listed Victorian gem, established as the home of the Bute Docks Company. It also sat at the gateway for seamen from the world over who settled in Tiger Bay to make it the first multicultural community in the UK. Early in the 20th century it transferred to accommodate the Cardiff Railway Company, and later on to offices of the Great Western Railway.

Bute Dock Company sign

As the docks declined and closed, this proud building that had in its days administered the Port of Cardiff and the railways necessary for transporting much of the freight, lost its way, a bit like a stray cat, and fell into the same disuse as most of the surrounding industrial waste land. As the 20th century entered its final couple of decades it recaptured its original splendour within the new commercial vision for the docklands redevelopment.

Pierhead BuildingIt is now a part of the neighbouring Welsh Assembly buildings, complete with its own smaller version of ‘Big Ben’, but too small to provide the Assembly with its debating chamber… now accommodated in the wooden stingray beached next door. At least this architectural treasure is spared the need to accommodate political hot air, unlike the original ‘Big Ben’ of London framing the Palace of Westminster.

Pierhead Building [2]The detail on all parts of the building is exquisite, and just like many iconic buildings you can spend a great deal of time actually reading the building itself, as a bold statement of its designers and its place in time. Even the well preserved gargoyles are enough to remind any self-respecting cat of the dangers posed by a pack of ugly dogs! Now the building houses a visitor attraction with a 5-minute visual montage of the history of the surrounding area every 20 minutes in the Main Hall, as well as space for other Welsh history exhibitions, events and conferences.

Pierhead Building [3]


For this cat it is very reassuring that at least some remnants of the once great industrial heritage of this area are preserved, even if it also manages to show up the relatively poor standard of architectural fare that passes as modern progress and development. The Victorian age may now form a diminishing legacy of the older stock in our built environment, but it still shows how bold they were in some of their grand statements.

Who says an ordinary cat can’t have interests beyond sleeping and eating? Cardiff may not be overly blessed with world class examples of architecture, but it has a number of gems of all ages. Until we speak again I will continue to promote the Juno Architectural Appreciation Society of Cardiff.