Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wales Millenium Centre

Wales Millennium Centre (Welsh: Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru) is an arts centre located in the Cardiff Bay area of Cardiff, Wales. Phase 1 of the building was opened during the weekend of the 26–28 November 2004 and phase 2 opened on 22 January 2009 with an inaugural concert. The centre has hosted performances of opera, ballet, dance, comedy and musicals.

Inscribed on the front of the dome, above the main entrance, are two poetic lines, written by Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis. The Welsh version is Creu Gwir fel gwydr o ffwrnais awen, which means "Creating truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration". The English is In These Stones Horizons Sing. The lettering is formed by windows in the upstairs bar areas and are internally illuminated at night.

The venue comprises one large theatre and two smaller halls. It also includes shops, bars and restaurants. The Centre is home to the national opera, dance, theatre and literature companies of Wales, as well as the national orchestra. In total, the Centre has eight arts organisations in residence. The main theatre, the Donald Gordon Theatre, holds 1,897 people, the BBC Hoddinott Hall holds 350 people and the Weston Studio Theatre holds 250 people.

The Centre was designed by Jonathan Adams, of local architects, Capita Percy Thomas, with Arup Acoustics providing the acoustic design and Arup as building engineer. Arup Acoustics also designed the acoustics for the Sage Gateshead in Newcastle. This building is nicknamed locally "the armadillo" which I suppose is better than "the slug". I wonder if it is possible to design an acoustically dynamic concert hall without it looking like a creature. I suspect that the local intoxicant laden imagination has more to do with these names than Arup's designer's intentions.

The architect's concept of the building was to design a building that expressed "Welshness" and that was instantly recognisable. The building was designed to reflect the many different parts of Wales with local Welsh materials that dominate its history; slate, metal, wood and glass. All the materials used come from Wales and was built from 1,350 tonnes of Welsh slate, 300,000 concrete blocks, a million metres of electric cable.

The concept of a building that "reflects the people" is an echo of the Scottish Parliament Building, though this project was completed with much less confrontation and has been greeted with more or less universal acclaim. 

The Centre's main feature, the bronze coloured dome, which covers the Donald Gordon Theatre, is clad in steel that was treated with copper oxide. It was designed to withstand the weather conditions on the Cardiff Bay waterfront and will look better with age.
Jonathan Adams' describes his theory for the interior:
 "Like the exterior of the building, the principal internal spaces are designed to make the best use of natural materials in their natural state. The structure and detail of the concourse galleries echo the form of the exterior, with the curving strata formed in native hardwoods. Oak, ash, beech, sycamore, alder, birch, chestnut and cherry woods from renewable sources in mid-Wales will be used together in proportions that reflect their relative availability from the forest. The design of the concourse galleries is intended to evoke the image of the edge of the forest, partly as a counterpoint to the coastal nature of the exterior, and partly because the edge of the forest in folklore and mythology represents a line between the real world and the magical world, a line which resembles the front edge of the theatre stage. The form of trees is created by the interweaving curvature of the gallery edges, and by the random positioning of the supporting columns"
My only criticism of this spectacular project is that whoever is in charge of the Christmas decorations could not have realized how wrong a blue artificial tree is for this venue, especially in view of the architect's intentions.
Well, I suppose it doesn't look bad, just stupid, especially in view of thousands of dollars of hardwood to put a cheap plastic tree.  This may be an indication of the tough economic times.  I would rather see nothing at all, than something wrong, nonetheless.

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