Cardiff City Centre’s evolution has seen various attempts to integrate art into the public realm. From Goscombe John’s early 20th Century civic sculptures, Robert Thomas’s ‘people focussed’ works, found ubiquitously on Queen Street, Roger Andrews commemorative works (Fred Keenor and Sir Tasker Watkins) to more recent abstract works such as Bedwr Williams Chess Sets on the Hayes and Marianne Forrest’s Pierhead Clock installation on St Mary Street. The Central Square redevelopment provides a further opportunity to develop art and to integrate this into the public realm design.
As ever, there are constraints to deal with; crowd control and management of events at the Millennium Stadium being the most obvious. Major events see significant people movement around the Central Square area and even the finest artwork is likely to become an obstacle – Central Square has seen the Bill Pye’s Cader Idris installed in front of Cardiff Central Station and subsequently removed, largely for reasons of safety – the overriding concern is for those people to move safely through the square. The public realm strategy therefore, carefully considers the placement of seating, lighting, trees, signage and other street furniture in order to avoid likely tensions and public art will need to be considered in the same way.
Opportunities for major individual pieces are likely to be limited. Our public art strategy, therefore, is seeking to incorporate art into the elements of street furniture that will be an integral part of the public realm – some of these might provide a functional as well as an aesthetic role, such as Diane Maclean’s bespoke air, land and water railings on Mill Lane. There are further opportunities in lighting design – the scheme will be required to provide technically robust solutions that meet minimum lux levels, as well as more ambient lighting and both can incorporate artist input. The floorscape also provides a palette, as do benches, bins and the planting scheme. An art consultant will be appointed to develop the public art features of Central Square, in partnership with Cardiff Council.