down by the bay

having lived quite inland in lancashire and manchester all of my life, i have never really understood the powerful draw of the sea which folks who live closer to the coast seem to be defined by. i’m not saying that i don’t like it, just that i don’t have this inbuilt need to hear water lapping against pebbles whilst guls cry overhead. however, at the weekend whilst visiting some good friends in cardiff i spent a delightful afternoon down at cardiff bay.

obviously at the heart of the bay is the usual commercial development which seemingly underpins the redevelopment of a former industrial area, kind of like a more well rounded (and, to be honest, way better) version of salford quays. however, within minutes of nandospizzaexpresscaferouge you can be out in almost untouched quiet. the walk out from the bay to the barrage is stunning. on one side you gaze back across to the hive of cardiff, whilst on your left you can see across the sea to england.

i’m not really sure what i can equate the scenery at the barrage to. there is some really interesting use of colour on buildings, especially this little hut. the pastel paint job against a clear winter sky was really striking. i’m easily impressed by unimposing buildings when they are done well.

however, the most impressive part of this walk was another fine example of public art. felice varini’s ‘3 ellipses for 3 locks’ is a very simple piece of work in theory. around the barrage there are flashes of yellow paint, which come together to form the titular three ellipses. however, when you stand back and look at it properly this is brilliant. firstly, the three ellipses appear to float over the locks, sea, and pavement – they just exist. the hoops are an anamorphic illusion, they shift in and out of existence as you move. this is driven home even further when you view the attention to detail which makes this piece work. not only are there massive sections of wall which have been painted yellow to create the furthest points, but there are 1cm sections of railing which have been painstakingly painted to ensure that the vision isn’t broken by any of the furniture in the barrage. this is a really well thought out piece of art, which seemed to be making people stop in their tracks and provoked a lot of discussion.

from here we wandered back towards the bay, taking in a lovely sunset on the way.

other than the barrage, the other highlights of the trip were three strikingly different pieces of architecture. the norwegian church (which is now an arts centre) is an example of the simplicity of design that i’ve been told about by a friend who lives out there. yet within two minutes walk you are stood outside the welsh assembly building, which seems like a brilliant seat of power. the inverted undulations of the roof, which continues both internally and externally, are a great feature. (nb – my photo of the assembly building does it nowhere near justice).

to finish this walk we went up to the millenium centre, a real highlight of the bay. this building strikes that balance between imposing and welcoming with a great deal of success; the use of slate on one half of the building grounds the building, whilst the massive armadillo like shell is pure 21st century design. catching the building just after sunset was lovely, as from one angle it was becoming part of the darkening sky, whilst from the front the light pouring out stood out so much. a great way to finish a wander in one of my favourite cities.

cardiff bay website

safle public art

felice varini


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