On 28 January 2010, SEE went on a reconnaissance visit to the National Assembly for Wales Senedd in Cardiff Bay. The objective behind the visit was two-fold. First, to explore the Senedd and surrounding administrative buildings in order to possibly in the future locate a SEE project information stand; and second, to ask questions about plenary proceedings and protocols to meet the SEE project aim of liaising with regional government officials in order to integrate design into public policy.
The tour of the Siambr (debating chamber), Public Gallery, Committee Rooms and Oriel (open public space with views down into the Siambr) provided a good context for our theoretical knowledge of the workings of the Senedd. We also discovered that it is possible to set up exhibitions in this area, which might potentially be an option for the SEE project information stand. The visit was also an opportunity to learn about Assembly agenda-setting - the most valuable nugget of information being the news that a petition or manifesto, signed by at least ten Welsh residents has to considered by one of the Committees.
The building itself is very iconic and inspiring architecturally and symbolically. The most striking features include the four glass walls representative of democratic transparency; the Oriel, a large funnel in the centre reflecting natural light into the Siambr intended to encourage visitors to meet and share ideas; and the technological advancement of the Public Gallery, which enables onlookers to see the voting results of the Plenary sessions in real-time and so experience politics in action. The structure is a showcase of sustainable design as the majority of its building materials were locally sourced and with its ingenious use of renewable energy – natural lighting, innovative ventilation system (the Oriel is the largest wind cowl in Europe) and intriguing earth heat exchange system comprised of 27 boreholds each 100 metres deep.
SEE is a network of 11 European design organisations working to integrate design into innovation policies across Europe. It is co-financed by ERDF / INTERREG IVC. For more information visit www.seeproject.org