project name

CLIENT Cardiff Bay Development Corporation
SIZE 2.5 miles long
YEAR 1997

2001 Concrete Society Award

Alsop's concept of transforming a piece of infrastructure into a integrated work of art is nowhere more vividly realised than in the barrage which spans Cardiff Bay, designed to turn a tidal estuary into a freshwater lake with a controlled water level and to encourage the regeneration of Cardiff's depressed docklands.

The Alsop team worked on the project from 1989 with civil engineers Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners, commissioned by the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation. In functional terms, only a very strong wall of concrete, with sluice gates to control water levels, was required. However, it was apparent that the Barrage was not just a barrier, but also a connection, spanning the Bay from the docklands to the suburb of Penarth. Although the Barrage would not carry road traffic, it would form a convenient route for walkers and cyclists and could be developed as a leisure and tourist amenity. The idea of a series of 'events' along its length was developed - these varied from planted areas, observation terraces and picnic spots to sculptural interventions and even a specially created island.

Alsop was also responsible for the Barrage Control Building, a dramatically elevated and cantilevered structure with a control room (overlooking the sluice gates) set above plant. Clad in aluminium on a steel frame, with aluminium sandwich panels used to clad the services box below, the building is designed for high durability, yet has a sculptural expressiveness which reflects the wider vision behind the Barrage.