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This report is taken from PN Review 122, Volume 24 Number 6, July - August 1998.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams

Not a year goes by without a dispute about a public building. You would think the Welsh the most architecturally alert people in Western Europe. The folk museum at St Fagans (certainly 'worth the visit' as the guide books say) preserves, among many other vestiges of folk-life in Wales, examples of vernacular architecture - farmhouses, terraced dwellings from the industrial valleys, even a pigsty, reassembled, brick by brick, stone by stone, from their original sites. They are for the most part humble - and strangely humbling, if you look upon them with a half-sympathetic eye. There should be a gallery at St Fagans where the jerry-building of schools in the 1960s is suitably commemorated, along with the halfbaked ideas of developers and anti-social notions of council estate designers. An annexe would feature grand projects come to nought: Will Alsop's library and 'House of Literature' in Swansea; Zaha Hadid's opera house in Cardiff Bay. And alongside these now would be some suitable display to symbolise the dreadful bungle over the selection of a building to house the forthcoming National Assembly. This should have been a perfectly straightforward affair, but the Secretary of State for Wales, Ron Davies, and a man called Goodway, 'leader' (as local politicians will have it these days) of Cardiff Council managed between them to make a pig's ear of it. The collapse of the anticipated Labour old pals' act prompted other localities to press their claims to house the Assembly. The correspondence column of the Western ...


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