As we discover the city of Cardiff in Wales, we walked around Cardiff Bay and were surprised by all the amazing architecture we could find here. A great opportunity to give Nick some space on the blog to tell you all about the topic he knows most about.
Take it away, Nick!
CARDIFF BAY ARCHITECTURE SELF-GUIDED WALK
The Bay area has for many years been an essential part of the economy of Cardiff and Wales. The recent history of Cardiff Bay can be summarized into a series of key events:
In older times, when it was still known as Tiger Bay, the area used to be a melting pod of people from over 50 different nationalities who earned their living in the heavy industry around the docklands.
Notorious for its Red Light District and gambling scene, like many other historic port-cities at the time, the community was close and distinctive. But large destruction of the Bay changed the atmosphere from the 1960’s and the community changed. It lasted another thirty years until any form of decent renewal came with the introduction of some of Wales’ current famous landmarks.
Interestingly, the water in the harbour used to be much more tidal than it is today, with changes up to fourteen metres! The large new barrage, which is said to be one of Europe’s biggest engineering projects, has turned the port into an enormous fresh water lake with over twelve kilometres of waterfront, making it ideal for recreational purposes. That’s a decent run if you’re up for it. It has also attracted many new businesses that make this a welcome destination for any visitor or inhabitant of Cardiff.
The Millennium Centre
Whether you’re with your family visiting the Techniquest Science and Discovery Centre, or whether you prefer to do some shopping in the cosy Mermaid Quay area, there are plenty of reasons to visit this renewed part of Cardiff.
It is great to see how these new developments can coexist with some of the older elements. You can find the heritage listed D-Shed which is a Victorian maritime warehouse that is now the home to a regional Craft and Applied Arts Centre and retail space, situated right next to the iconic Millennium Centre.
Next to the Millennium Centre you have both the new and the old buildings of the Wales Assembly, where the laws of Wales are discussed and formed. The new Assembly building has a very distinctive floating roof and glass façade, emphasizing the transparency of the democratic political system of Wales. Many people use the steps in front of the building as a place to relax and enjoy the views over the lake and the Bay.
The old Assembly, build from red brick and glazed terracotta in a distinctive Gothic Revivalist style was created by the Architect William Frame, who also worked with William Burges on the refurbishment of Cardiff Castle. It is now used as a conference venue and exhibition space.
Goleulong 2000 Lightship
Moving further to the South-West you pass along the Goleulong 2000 Lightship. This shiny red vessel used to serve as a floating lighthouse until 1989 in a number of locations across the UK. It was refurbished as a Christian Centre with a chapel and it also housed a café. It really looks like a great place to have a coffee on the water on a nice summer’s day.
Unfortunately, due to financial difficulties it had to close in October 2013 and there has been a debate ever since about what it should become. Hopefully there will be a function for it soon as it is quite a fitting part of the overall harbour scenery.
If you then pass through the Waterfront Park walkway you’ll end up at the Norwegian Church, a bright white timber building that wouldn’t look out of place in a historic mountain village in Scandinavia.
Its name already tells you quite a bit about the heritage and how it ended up here. As there was a very diverse community in the Bay from all over the world, it makes sense that some people might have had the desire to bring a bit of home to Cardiff. The Norwegian Church is a perfect example of that.
A fun fact about this building is that the famous Children’s Books author Roald Dahl was Christened in this very church, though not at the site where it stands today. After the decline of the Bay’s community in the 1960’s, the church also fell into disrepair. But luckily Roald Dahl himself stepped up and acted as president for the Norwegian Church Preservation Trust which helped to find funding for dismantling the building and reconstructing it in its current location. It is now the home of an art gallery and café and also a very popular wedding venue.
More to Explore
For many people the church forms the end of what is considered to be the Cardiff Bay area. But there is also the option of continuing South along the water’s edge past The Doctor Who Experience towards the Cardiff Barrage Skate Plaza and eventually the large Water Barrage itself at the most Southern point of the lake which gives you some great views looking back at the harbour and the city from a distance as the many ships did that used to have Cardiff as their destination.
Art in the Bay
Next to the many distinctive buildings, you can also find a number of sculptures and statues that are all related to the history and industry of the harbour area.
From the Barrage you could continue your tour around the lake along the Southern inner harbours that lead you back to the city via the International White Water Centre and the newly developed Ice Arena and International Pool. But you’ll have to leave a fair bit of time for this part and be aware that you’ll have to cross the River Taff via a busy motorway to complete the full circle back into the city.
It’s interesting to see all these different developments being so closely connected and situated in this sheltered harbour setting. Discovering this part of the city gives you a good overview of where Cardiff has come from in the past and how it ended up where it is now. Cardiff Bay is a distinctive feature of the city which lies uniquely close to the old centre and is definitely worth visiting.
Do you look at architecture when you travel? What did you like most about Cardiff Bay?
Plan your trip to Cardiff Bay
Disclaimer: Nienke and I visited Cardiff on invitation of Visit Wales, as part of the #xmasCardiff campaign. As always, all options are 100% our own.
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