Thinking Big for Wales
Thinking Big for Wales
Is it possible for an urban development to offer lasting multiple benefits on a national scale? Ultimately it depends on the development, and this made me think “What could we do in here in Wales that would deliver a highly innovative urban development that would provide a comprehensive series of benefits on a national basis?”
Whilst what follows truly is a “concept” it does illustrate how, by being ambitious, we can find dynamic ways to develop our urban environments.
Thinking Big for Wales
My father’s job involved travelling around Wales, and as child during school holidays I’d often be sat beside him enjoying trips around the country. This meant that from an early age I gained a natural appreciation of just how varied Wales is not just terms of scenery but also its culture. Later life my work gave me the opportunity to travel around Wales both organising and attending events. I consider myself to be fortunate in having been able to enjoy experiencing the diversity of Wales, and at the same time it made me realise that not everyone gets this opportunity.
This became the starting point for a “concept” where, through an innovative urban development, it could be possible to bring together the distinctive aspects of Welsh culture together in way that would benefit: individuals, the creative sector, tourism and ultimately the Welsh economy too.
To achieve this, the concept suggests building a new National Gallery. This would be a gallery with a difference, it would be built in four locations, North, Mid, South and West Wales. There is a logic to this, and it is the key to unlocking the benefits this type of urban development could offer.
As we’ve just seen with Dundee, new galleries can and do attract significant media attention. Well executed they provide a strong focus for showcasing heritage, and new creative talent. This also helps to make them attractive destinations for tourists.
You may be wondering why I’m suggesting not one but four new National Galleries for Wales, so here’s the logic behind this concept.
The galleries would be linked. So whichever one you entered you would, through VR be able to visit the other three galleries. This would give everyone the opportunity to experience the different collections from around Wales, and it would be an innovative way to allow people the opportunity to gain a greater appreciation of the differences in Welsh culture.
Each gallery would be able to act as a hub for the visual arts within their respective region. This could include offering information of other galleries, workshops, courses and artists in the region as a way of further promoting visual arts in Wales.
Embedding technology in the galleries from the outset should make it possible for creatives to give talks in one location that could be watched simultaneously in the three other galleries. Helping to raise the profile of our creative talents irrespective of where they are based in Wales.
For education the linked nature of the galleries would allow children to work together on creative projects across Wales, sharing work electronically. This would, in a natural way, give children the opportunity to learn about the different parts of our country whilst working on collaborative projects.
Having four National Galleries would also open up the opportunity to put on tour our some of our most significant artworks, for example the French impressionist paintings that currently live in Cardiff. This would help to make these inspirational world class works of art more accessible to more people across Wales, who otherwise may not get the opportunity to experience them. Additionally, when toured to different regions they would have the potential to attract more tourists, and offer a useful extra boost to the economy.
If based in Cardiff the South Wales gallery would offer the increasing numbers of visitors to the city an engaging new attraction. The VR galleries would offer these visitors the opportunity to find out more about the different regions of Wales, and hopefully encourage repeat visits to other parts of the country.
Due to the increase in online shopping our town and city centres are changing rapidly. So now really is the time to look for new ways to bring more life into our urban centres, and the galleries would do exactly this.
Building anything costs money, however if from the outset the galleries were developed as multiple use buildings they could include, rentable studio spaces, apartments for sale or rent, event spaces and even selling spaces for producers. Adding in creative play facilities, cafes and bars would help to ensure that the galleries became attractive destinations in their own right.
Architecturally, this would provide the most exceptional brief, to create one gallery in four locations. The ambition should be to commission buildings that are of international architectural significance, that show Wales to be a truly innovative creative powerhouse in terms of the visual arts. The international design community is highly influential, and capturing their attention would have a significant positive impact for Wales.
Undoubtedly this is a big concept, and one that would require many stakeholders working together, yes it would cost money, but at the same time it offers a raft of benefits for Wales. I don’t think we should be afraid of being ambitious, and I know Wales has so much to share both amongst ourselves and to the wider world, and a brave concept such as this could prove to be a highly valuable asset for Wales.