Cardiff County Hall, South Glamorgan
Cardiff County Hall, South Glamorgan – County Architect’s Office (1986-87)
Risk: Future demolition
Designed by J.R.C. Bethell from the County Architect’s Office and built between 1986 and 87, South Glamorgan County Hall was an early keystone project in the regeneration of Cardiff’s waterfront. Developed on 100 acres of derelict land at Bute East Dock, the scheme responded to the Council’s design principles for a low rise quadrangle form, human in scale, and welcoming to the public yet with a clear civic grandeur. It provided 24,000m2 of space for new offices, a council chamber, and accommodation for ancillary services.
The buildings intricately varied façade in glass and brick with distinctive projecting roof-lines, recall US modernist Frank Lloyd Wright’s influential designs at Robie House, Westcott House, and Arthur Heurtley House, with a crystalline or mineral quality that also befits the region’s mining heritage. In the Buildings of Wales, John Newman records how County Hall sits within the tradition established by Hillingdon Civic Centre (1973–8, grade II) which ‘showed how to characterise a civic building without making it domineer by its bulk or formal language’. Through these characteristics, Cardiff County Hall can also be considered a close relative of Colin St. John Wilson and M.J. Long’s British Library (designed 1975–8, built 1982–99, grade I) which combines similar palate of materials, with expansive dark slate roofs and a formal redbrick civility.
In March 2022, the city council gave outline planning permission for the redevelopment of the Bute East Dock and Atlantic Wharf site as part of a masterplan for a new indoor entertainment arena, which could ultimately see the Country Hall demolished for new housing and a hotel complex. While plans for a relocation of the Council services have yet to be formalised, C20 has submitted a pre-emptive listing application to Cadw.
How to help: Support our listing application for Cardiff County Hall by writing to Cadw, email@example.com, saying you think it is a building of architectural and historic interest.
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