Welsh Architecture Paints Quite The Picture

By Trevor Klaus

When people tend to name off countries within the United Kingdom, Wales is usually one of the last ones mentioned by whoever is doing the naming. However, the smallest country on Great Britain shares equally as much history as the other four kingdoms that are currently united. The history of Wales, like the other countries in the United Kingdom, is displayed for all to see in its architecture. The mix of newer and older buildings give a clear sense of where the country has been, but also gives a clearer picture to where the country might be heading.

Many of the buildings in Wales are just plain old, but they are the type of old that has a story to tell. Many areas of Wales also feature a nice mixture of old and new architecture, such as this area near Cardiff Bay.

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What does the difference in said architecture imply however? To me at least, it shows that Wales as a country loves celebrating its rich history, but also has that drive to strive forward with the rest of the world as new ways of doing things are discovered. While this area showcases that Wales and the city of Cardiff in particular are willing to mix these styles, there are also instances where the styles of Wales are intentionally kept separate in order to better showcase either the history of the country or the direction the country is heading.

On the history side, take Cardiff Castle, a castle in the center of Cardiff dating back to the times when Romans ruled the city in the beginning of the AD Era of time. The castle has seen many events take place in and around its walls over the years. Some of these events include great wars, such as the Welsh Civil War and the relatively recent World War II. The castle also saw nine houses rule over it, each for generations at a time.

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The history of this castle is uniquely Welsh, and it is easy to understand why the Welsh government would want to try and maintain as much of it near its original condition. The castle is important to the history of the Welsh identity and provides a solid foundation for the Welsh people to move forward from.

On the contrary in Cardiff, there are areas of the city that are very much more modern than that of the castle. Take both the Millennium Stadium and the Cardiff City Stadium into account here. While the Millennium Stadium is certainly more impressive in terms of grand scale in comparison to the other stadium, both stadiums play a key role in contrasting the architecture of the castle.

The modern architecture of each of these stadiums symbolize how Wales wants to bring people together in the years to come. The stadiums serve a similar purpose to the castle in ancient times, as a gathering place for people from around the city (and now, potentially, from around the world), to gather and unite for a common cause. They are also a staple for just how grand everything can look and really be by using modern technology and architecture.

It is also interesting in comparing the architecture of Wales to that of my home country, the United States of America. While the styles certainly differ between the two countries, there are certainly parallels to be drawn in how the architecture communicates the history in each country.

The United States is a considerably much younger country than that of Wales, and thus does not have thousands of years of history to call back upon. This directly affects the building architecture in the United States, as there are no buildings built prior to the late 1500s in the country. Even with a few of these buildings scattered throughout the east coast of the land, the United States in terms of buildings consists mostly of buildings built after 1900. This lack of history in the United States has also allowed for a more constant process of tearing down and building up buildings again and again.

One city in the United States that is a perfect example of this is Detroit, which like Cardiff, features a mix of older and newer buildings. Detroit, however, contains some distinct differences. One of the most prominent is that the older buildings in the city were built early 1900s, and as a result of decades of financial mismanagement, many buildings in certain areas of the city are severely run down and not maintained. However, the city as a whole is not entirely like this, as areas such as Greektown and District Detroit provide some of the most stunning architecture the United States has to offer. Take for example, the newly opened Little Caesar’s Arena in District Detroit. The arena which houses the city’s hockey and basketball teams, was widely praised in terms of design in terms of the way the arena mixes architecture and technology.

It is also important to note that the difference in architecture extends to the interior of the buildings as well. The interior of the buildings in Cardiff were much more grand and ancient looking than the interior of any buildings in Detroit. That’s not to say there were not any similarities in the interiors of most buildings in both cities. The majority of businesses utilize similar aesthetics on either side of the pond that varies depending on what the business is trying to sell.

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The insides of Cardiff Castle, showcasing the grand architecture of the building’s interior.

Overall, while most of the interior architecture nowadays between Cardiff and Detroit is pretty similar, the differences in there exteriors help to show the differences in the history of the two cities. The older architecture shows that Cardiff’s history is shown to be a rich Welsh city, that has been mostly unaffected with the exception of a few wars for thousands of years, while Detroit’s show a relatively young city that has been through a lot of ups and downs. The newer architecture in both cities shows the ambition of both cities to be on the cutting edge of the world’s economy for years to come.

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