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This report is taken from PN Review 253, Volume 46 Number 5, May - June 2020.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams
That wonderfully informative series of chunky books, The Buildings of Wales, was founded by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as an extension of his Buildings of England, but he was not their author. The much praised volume on Glamorgan was written by John Newman (who, while a student at the Courtauld, was for a time Pevsner’s driver), and it is he who made the bold assertion that ‘in Cathays Park, Cardiff has the finest civic centre in the British Isles ... where the coherence and splendour of the whole group (of buildings) adds lustre to each individual element’. Most of us, residents in or frequent visitors to Cardiff, are so accustomed to the neat assemblage of a dozen listed, mostly Edwardian baroque, buildings in pale Portland stone on a roughly rectangular grid, with the fine open space of Alexandra Gardens in the midst, that we rarely pause to take it in. It is a pleasant place to stroll on a fine day. You can walk its perimeter roads in twenty minutes without undue haste, as I often did during lunch hours when I worked in the fortress-like ‘New Crown Building’, clearly designed like the castles of Edward I to keep down the rebellious Welsh, which, since 1979, has closed off the northern end. That and a few more recent additions apart, Cardiff’s civic centre is grand without being overbearing, in keeping with the domestic scale of much of the city, until recent years and the construction ‘down town’ of a cluster of multi-storey monstrosities that crowd the sky without offering a glimmer of aesthetic interest. ...


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