Friday, 24 April 2009

City of Arcades

Cardiff has branded itself as City of Arcades. It’s an obvious destination for an arcade obsessive. An exploratory visit provided just enough time for an overview. Cardiff’s arcades may lack the decorative splendour of those in Leeds but they are nicely proportioned, well maintained and possess a wide range of retailers without the sense of exclusivity to be found in Leeds. There are second-hand bookshops, cafés and even an Authorised Apple Reseller alongside joke shops, tattoo studios and suppliers of fine cheese and fancy dress. The picture above comes from Morgan Arcade (opened in 1896) which has the pleasing feature of dividing into two curving branches. Slender glazing bars and delicate, perforated cast iron trusses contribute to a light and airy sense of space.

Castle Arcade (opened in 1887) has several distinctive features that enhance its L-shaped layout. Narrow flights of stairs provide access to an upper gallery (mostly given over to office accommodation) with narrow bridges that offer exciting elevated views. Best of all are the enormous mirrors that occupy the gable ends and visually extend the space into an infinity of glazing and roof trusses. The dimensions and mix of traders are more reminiscent of Passage des Panoramas in Paris than anywhere else I’ve visited in the UK. On that basis, Cardiff can be recommended to flâneurs everywhere.

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