The Senedd (Welsh for Legislature, Parliament or Senate; pronounced approximately "SEN-eth") is the home of the National Assembly for Wales. It is situated in a prime position on the waterfront in the Cardiff Bay area of Cardiff, Wales in the United Kingdom. The building lies adjacent to the Grade I listed Pierhead Building and Wales Millennium Centre facing south west.
The building was designed by architect Richard Rogers, built by Taylor Woodrow at a cost of £67 million and was officially opened on 1 March 2006 by Queen Elizabeth II.
The building has three floors, which all serve a different purpose based on the architect's vision. Transparent at the public level, the debates take place below within the slate plinth. The building is distinctive in its wood and glass design and houses the debating chamber and committee rooms for the Wales Millennium Centre, and was designed to be as open and accessible as possible. According to Wales Tonight, the toilets are flushed with rainwater.
The Doctor Who episode "The Lazarus Experiment" was filmed there.
The Neuadd (Hall) is the public space which welcomes visitors to the Senedd. This lower level houses the public reception and information area, and was conceived as an orientation and event area.
On entering the Neuadd, visitors see a large slate and glass reception desk below a simple canopy that aids acoustics in this area and maintains a micro-climate for reception staff. To the left of the reception desk a flight of steps lead to the Oriel.
The Oriel (Gallery) is an open, public space offering views of the Siambr at work, the Committee Rooms and a spectacular panorama of Cardiff Bay and surrounding buildings. Refreshments are available to members of the public in the Oriel café. There is also space here for exhibitions, and events. The glass flooring, which surrounds the funnel, enables visitors to glimpse down into the Siambr two floors below – an opportunity for the electorate to see their elected representatives at work.
This raised area overlooks the main entrance and offers impressive external views in all directions.
The Cwrt (Court) is one of the few areas within the Senedd not open to the public. It is the area that leads to the Siambr and Committee Rooms, and where Assembly Members congregate before and after debates. It is an area on the ground floor surrounding the chamber and has been designed to be a milling area. The ground floor of the Senedd is accessible only to Assembly Members, officials and members of the press. Entry to the area is strictly controlled by a security gate and guards. The ground floor also has the Members' Tea Room, located next to one of the Siambr's entrances, and a Media Briefing Room. At least five security guards have been reprimanded for using the CCTV equipment for unauthorised use, including spying on private residential properties and a local hotel.
This is a space where Assembly Members meet before and after debates. As elsewhere, walls are clad in fabric panels and the flooring is slate. Two double doors lead through the curved wall of the drum of the Siambr and into the Siambr itself.
The Siambr (Chamber) is the large, circular debating chamber which lies at the heart of the building. It houses the full meeting of all 60 Assembly Members under a spectacular funnel which hangs from the roof. The Siambr, entered from the Cwrt, is a large circular space at the heart of the building and is defined by the dramatic funnel form in the main roof. Below the funnel, the Siambr has a tiered floor. The timber desks are bespoke items of furniture, hand crafted from Welsh oak and discreetly integrating appropriate technical equipment. The Siambr floor is timber and the walls at the lower level of the drum of the Siambr are clad in acoustic panels that facilitate the Siambr's acoustic performance.
In front of the Presiding Officer's desk is the mace. It was a gift from the government of New South Wales in 2006, and is hand crafted from gold, silver and brass, the 4ft (1.3m) mace has become the centrepiece of the new chamber.
On the level above, accessed directly from the Neuadd, the public viewing gallery is situated around the outer edges of the Siambr, separated from the Siambr itself, for security reasons, by the lower glazed portion of the funnel. This gallery seats 128 people, including press and there are 12 spaces for visitors who use wheelchairs. Some of the seating is in an elevated tier to maintain views into the Siambr. This space has fabric acoustic panel walls, a carpeted floor and low-level lighting.
On either side of the Siambr two internal courtyards are formed by two deep slots cut into the plinth, which provide daylight for the sequence of committee rooms and offices on the ground floor. These courtyards also add to the transparency of the building by allowing views into the private spaces from the public levels above.
All public Assembly Committee Meetings in Cardiff Bay are held in the Senedd's three Committee Rooms. There are three committee rooms in the Cwrt. These rooms normally accommodate committees of up to 24 people at the meeting tables. Committee Rooms 1 and 2 can be opened and re-configured to accommodate up to 34 people around a central table. The committee rooms have double height, glazed walls that face out into the internal courtyard. These along with the roof lights above, maximise the amount of natural daylight which enters the rooms. The glazed walls also provide views into the rooms from the public areas adding to the feeling of transparency. Artificial light can also be used to provide adequate broadcasting conditions.
Members of the public can access the Committee room viewing galleries from the Neuadd above via glass bridges which span the courtyard below. Each viewing gallery has 31 fixed seats and three spaces for visitors who use wheelchairs - three of the fixed seats can be removed to provide a further two spaces for wheelchair users. As with the Siambr viewing gallery, full-height glazed screens separate the public galleries from the committee rooms for security. Materials used in the viewing galleries include carpet flooring, fabric panels cladding the walls and concrete soffits.
Four projects by four artists were commissioned to ensure that art was integrated into the fabric of the building:
- Alexander Beleschenko, designed and created the 'Heart of Wales';
- Martin Richman was appointed to add colour to the Senedd;
- Danny Lane created the 'Assembly Field'; and
- Richard Harris, sculptor, created 'The Meeting Place on the Plinth'