National Assembly for Wales

National Assembly for Wales - Design

The detailed design of the internal and external environments of the National Assembly contribute positively to the public life of the city. The Main Hall and the Debating Chamber form the internal, spatial representation of the electorate and the elected respectively and have been the focus of much attention in the design process. The Main Hall is arranged on two levels with the lower entrance level housing the public reception and information facilities. To one side of the large slate and glass reception desk, a flight of stairs leads to the upper level, which accommodates a café and exhibition area with a glass floor allowing glimpses down into the Debating Chamber and impressive views in all directions.

The Debating Chamber, a large circular space at the heart of the building, is crowned by a dramatic bell form expressed in the roof plane. The interior of the bell is finished in concentric, satin-finished aluminium rings. Surmounting these, a glazed lantern allows diffused daylight into the space below, while a conical mirror suspended within the lantern reflects additional daylight into the chamber.

The lower portion of the bell is glazed, offering views into the chamber from the public viewing gallery above, which accommodates 128 people, including up to twelve wheelchair users. The chamber includes significantly increased security features that were incorporated following the terrorist attacks in the USA on the 11th of September 2001.

The exterior areas around the National Assembly form a cohesive new open public space that sits between well established areas of differing character and quality. Hard landscape extends from the plinth to the adjoining buildings completing the development in this part of Cardiff Bay.  Low slate terrace walls define a series of terraces falling away from the front of the building and onto the existing harbour wall. The wall is penetrated by the Old Dock, providing the opportunity for the terraces to continue down to the water, through the wall and onto an extended boardwalk.

The Debating Chamber is the physical and metaphorical centre of the design, and is surrounded by public space so that it is open and accessible to all. The Chamber is signalled by a dramatic bell form projecting above the roof line, inspired by RRP’s previous collaboration with the artist Anish Kapoor.

As a public building, the Assembly has the responsibility of setting high environmental standards. Controlled natural light is used extensively throughout the design. In the Debating Chamber, a glazed lantern allows daylight to penetrate, while a roof cowl rotates to the direction of the wind to drive the natural ventilation. Forecast studies indicate that the building will run at a low 75 kWh/m2, well below the best practice target of 130 kWh/m2.

At RRP’s suggestion, the site, which is located directly facing Cardiff Bay, was expanded to take advantage of the opportunity to complete the ‘jigsaw’ of development in the immediate vicinity and to create an important new public space for the city.