Building for Democracy: Senedd celebrates tenth anniversary

11 March 2016

The Senedd, the home of the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff, celebrates its tenth anniversary on Tuesday 1 March with Building for Democracy, a talk from architects Richard Rogers and Ivan Harbour of Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners.

Rising out of Cardiff Bay on a plinth of Welsh slate, the Senedd was designed to be accessible and transparent – an open building for the people of Wales to see their elected representatives making laws and decisions that affect their lives.

In its ten years the Senedd has established itself as one of the most distinctive buildings in the country, a key part of the redevelopment of Cardiff Bay, and a beacon for sustainability; achieving the highest ever rating awarded in Wales under the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM).

“The Senedd has established itself as a central part of Welsh public life,” said Dame Rosemary Butler AM, Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales. “It is quite an amazing building and my favourite part is the public gallery. The gallery gives you a real feel for what is happening in the chamber and with that sense of excitement.

“I remember going to speak to a group of schoolchildren who were visiting there, and they said it felt like they were on the Battlestar Galactica!”

It has won many awards including the Chicago Athenaeum International Award (2007), RIBA National Award (2006) and made the shortlist for the RIBA Stirling Prize Building of the Year (2006).

The home of the National Assembly and the seat of democracy in Wales, the Senedd has seen the passing of 46 Acts and Measures during debates in the Siambr - the debating chamber where all 60 Assembly Members sit.

“Decisions made here affect the lives of everyone in Wales, so the principles of transparency and accessibility, rooted in the very fabric of the building, are of paramount importance to me,” said Dame Rosemary.

“For me, the Plenary debate on the presumed consent for organ donation was one of my highlights of the first ten years of the Senedd. There were impassioned contributions from all sides and you really felt that something extra special was happening.”

More than one million people have visited the Senedd and staff have conducted almost 30,000 tours with more than 200,000 people, including pupils from hundreds of schools across Wales.

The Senedd has played host to major events including the Wales national rugby team’s Six Nations grand slam celebration in 2012, and the home-coming of Welsh Olympians and Paralympians from the London 2012 games.

“The National Assembly brings a place for people into the heart of democracy,” said Richard Rogers. “The building is a piece of public realm, stretching up from the harbour to the city, so that citizens can watch and work with their elected representatives.”

Richard Rogers and Ivan Harbour will be in conversation with former Controller of BBC Wales, and current panelist for the RIBA Welsh Architecture Awards, Menna Richards.

Ivan Harbour said: “Jim Callaghan asked and hoped that the Senedd would come to symbolise Wales across the world. Ten years after its completion, I also hope that it has achieved that ambition.”

Building for Democracy is part of a series of events on 1 March including a celebration of the Fourth Assembly. The Deputy Presiding Officer, David Melding AM, will also receive the annual St David’s Day message from pupils at Ysgol Dewi Saint, St Davids, at 14.30 in the Neuadd.

On 5-6 March the Senedd will play host to a family fun weekend to further celebrate its 10th anniversary, including: performances by S4C’s Sioe Cyw; Britain’s Got Talent finalists, Ysgol Glanaethwy; City Voices Choir and No Fit State circus; poetry workshops delivered by Literature Wales and the Children’s Poet Wales, Anni Llŷn; and activities including arts and crafts, face painting and soft play for the whole family to enjoy.