Wales Millennium Centre The Centre is the successor to a previous project for the site, the Cardiff Bay Opera House. This was a plan, supported by the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, to construct a permanent home for the world-famous Welsh National Opera.
A design competition attracted international entries and was eventually won by Iraq-born architect Zaha Hadid. Her design was a radical glass structure that surrounded the main theatre. However, the project failed to win financial support from the Millennium Commission, the body which distributed funds from the UK National Lottery. Controversy still surrounds the scheme and the problems were a major embarrassment to Wales’ international image. Many claim that the original funding bid failed because of the widespread unpopularity of the Millennium Commission support for the Royal Opera House in London, which was seen as elitist. In fact, opera in Wales has a broad popular appeal.
There were also concerns that the development was financially unsustainable. Others say that the project was destroyed by conservatism and provincialism in relation to the modern architecture, and by Cardiff Council’s support for the Millennium Stadium. After this, a new project was conceived that included more than opera and was felt to be a better reflection of Welsh culture. The change of name symbolised this, but the project still had to overcome many hurdles. Funding from the Welsh Assembly and Millennium Commission took years to obtain. Cardiff Council had to buy the land after the previous owners threatened to built a retail centre there due to the delays. Nevertheless, in 2002, building work on the long-awaited project finally began. Further boosts were given by large donations from South African businessman Donald Gordon and the international bank, HSBC. For more information see: http://www.wmc.org.uk/ Buses to The Millennium Centre: 1 baycar 7 8 35 36 from Cardiff City Centre see www.cardiffbus.com for details.