Building the eye-catching Wales Millennium Centre involved dealing with a legacy of the past.
The Wales Millennium Centre is the first national cultural institution to be built in Wales for over half a century. The main elevation is dominated by the Gwyneth Lewis inscription: Creu gwir fel gwydr O ffwrnais awen / In these stones horizons sing.
The building’s 1,850-seat main auditorium establishes the centre as a world class venue home to the Welsh National Opera, Urdd Gobaith Cymru, Diversions Dance Company and Hijinx Theatre Company.
We provided an alternative, more efficient solution for the cladding on the auditorium walls. We used varying sizes and profiles of glass reinforced gypsum blocks that met the building’s acoustic requirements while also resembling the semi-random pattern of the external slate and timber elevations.
Originally the building’s orchestra pit was to be excavated within a contiguous or secant pile wall. We identified that groundwater flows were lower than anticipated and an open-cut excavation was undertaken. A new design in the form of a simple, cost-effective watertight reinforced concrete box eliminated the need for the proposed 70 piles.
Parts of the elevations are clad in slate blocks from Welsh quarries. The slate is the waste left over from the production of roofing slate. Laid in tapering layers to reflect its natural formation, it was fixed by craftsmen using traditional techniques.
Inside, the building the need for mechanical ventilation and air conditioning was designed out where practicable. In summer, ice is manufactured at night using cheap off-peak electricity and then melted during performances to provide cooling.
An on-site integrated design office enabled major subcontractor designers to work directly with the design team. The close working relationships which this approach fostered had a positive impact on the building programme and undoubtedly contributed to the successful completion of the project.
Following the successful completion of Wales Millennium Centre, we were awarded the adjacent Phase 2 development. Home to the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC Hoddinott Hall provides a 350-seat auditorium alongside rehearsal and performance space, a recording studio and ancillary accommodation.