Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more


  • Comment

Element House, this week's Building Study, is by a Norwegian architect for a Korean client; an instance of a certain kind of art/architecture hybrid which appears to thrive on foreign soil.

Initiatives such as Percent for Art have nurtured the British belief that art and architecture are additive as opposed to symbiotic. Perhaps the most absurd manifestation of this view is the public arts strategy devised by Cywaith Cymru for the Richard Rogers Partnership's National Assembly for Wales. Cywaith Cymru's insistence that artists and architects worked together in a seamless collaboration is belied by comments such as the deadpan assertion that 'Martin Richman was appointed to work on adding colour to the new building'. Adding colour? To Richard Rogers?

It is hard to imagine a more successful public artwork than RRP's timber-clad 'tree trunk' or 'bell' at the heart of the Welsh Assembly, which directs the eye to the overarching canopy of the undulating roof. Or a more poetic symbolic gesture than the circular roof light at the top of the bell, and the shaft of light which permeates the assembly chamber below.

Yet it is brutishly undermined by the circular artwork positioned directly below it.

Entitled Heart of Wales (lest there be any misunderstanding) Alex Beleschenko's domed glass mosaic draws the eye downwards; an insistent challenge to the natural inclination to look up towards the light. As a final irony, visitors are asked not to stand on the art. The Welsh Assembly marks the culmination of a career dedicated to creating an architectural expression to democratic ideals. It is designed to be egalitarian and accessible and robust.

Yet it says 'keep away' when you get to its heart.

Art and architecture are forced into an unseemly tussle; a natural consequence of the national belief that architecture is a canvas for art rather than art in itself.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.