Cardiff’s own Futurology

archi-cardiff queen st station 3-2013   berlin station 4-2006   berlin station 2-2006cardiff-milli-night-2009

In the wake of the Manic Street Preachers recent release Futurology I decided to add my comments on the upcoming plans for ‘our’ Cardiff (if you don’t know – the capital city of Wales). Sometimes known locally as Kairdiff or the ‘diff, it’s a love affair that smoulders via my extended absence.

In recent years we have seen the behemoth St David’s 2 shopping mall and equally impressive library opened. The Hayes upgraded with new paving and sky spearing sculpture ‘Alliance’ by French artist Jean-Bernard Metais. Some time ago we were told that both the cities major train stations Queen Street and Cardiff Central were also to be revamped. All good so far. However around the same time, the bus station was lost, a supposedly temporary measure that persists – dragging its heels through years.

A few days ago, design plans were put forth to modernise our centrepiece station which looks great but wait. Isn’t Cardiff Central a listed building? Or does this no longer matter? At one point the powers that be were saying how complicated all the legal shenanigans were just for the application of an elevator or lift to put it in UK terminology. Now, the glass one (although necessary) completely shatters the overall feel of the 1920’s Art Deco interior. So have the aforementioned plans for Central been shelved or just drastically altered?

The initial idea was to incorporate slate into the design. This revision sees the front façade entombed in glass, almost museum like, with an upper level featuring retail outlets and eateries not dissimilar to London’s Liverpool Street. Certainly, the 80 year old station could benefit from some development. New toilets on both ground and platform level for starters. The stairs and destination tiles are wonderfully evocative of a bygone era – the great age of train travel, however much like Bristol’s Temple Meads, the station sees a daily influx of people for which its original design can barely cope. So do escalators and Yo Sushi beckon? Maybe.

Or perhaps there is another radical solution. As with the airport, ‘they’ would be better off choosing a better location and building a new Cardiff Central from scratch leaving the existing one as a satellite station (a bit like Waterloo and Waterloo east operate in London). Further more, how about taking out both Queen Street and Central stations and having a Berlin style Hauptbahnof on the axis of the London-Swansea (east-west line) and the Valleys to the Bay (north-south) line? Not entirely sure it’s feasible but it would be something to behold.

As for the ongoing saga of the bus station, my thoughts are that retaining the train-bus transport hub in front of the station are vital instead of the hotchpotch of buildings earmarked by developers. This is the most worrying and potentially most divisive of all decisions that will be made. So far Cardiff has strode with confidence into the early part of this millennium. Hopefully it will continue to function as a capital to be proud of including a revised transport hub before the planners and developers irreversibly destroy it for generations to come.

And if you think that’s melodramatic, imagine what the bay might have looked like had the Millennium Centre been built where the St David’s Hotel is with the poem reflecting in the water at night. But the whole project was developed too fast without much thought or so it seems. I can only hope there is still room for dialogue and that it isn’t – as is so often the case – a done deal.

*Due to an accident, my 2011 images of some of the places I mention are lost, so I’ve had to improvise using older material. Hopefully I will be able to retrieve the data one day but it’s expensive to do at this point in time. You may also be interested in the Architecture Wales page.


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