Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Seeing work in progress - redevelopment site visit

This morning's Retail Partnership Board meeting was preceded by an hour-long walk around the redevelopment construction site. A dozen or so of us were kitted out with safety gear in Southgate House, and walked around to the Barrack Lane entrance and site offices, where we were signed in to the site with electronic passes which we had to swipe in order to unlock a security portal to get in and out of the working area. Thorough and impressive. Except that my swipe card didn't work, the only one, and caused us a delay, which wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't been the last to arrive to be kitted out with security gear, having misjudged my arrival time to start the day. I also succeeded in dropping my helmet noisily as I tried to put it on. Not my morning, I hate early starts. They were all so good, putting up with a bumbling fool of a Vicar, these retail bosses. But then you don't get to be such a boss unless you're good with people I guess.

I was a bit hyper I guess, due to having an insider photo opportunity, and a chance to quench my technical curiosity on our minders. We were led around the site by a charming young Asian woman, who looked totally at home in safety gear - probably a young graduate in her first job. I wondered if engineering was in her blood. She led us around the ground floor at the Hills Street end before taking us up a scaffolding tower with steps, sharing a great hole right through the structure from roof to basement with one of the giant tower cranes.

We looked over Hills Street to where the link with SD1 is under construction, then ascended to the second level to view the construction of the Mall roof. About 150 yards from Hills Street south is now covered over and in the course of acquiring either its glazing or roofing materials. At the far south end of the Mall, the first 50 yards of Mall framework is visible. In between is a 200 yard gulf, with only the basic steel skeletal framework. Midway, a Grand Arcade is under construction. This is at right angles to the Mall, and the intersection will contain a huge glazed lantern, within a few months. The Grand Arcade will be a pedestrian route open from 6.00am to midnight, and lined with shops and bars. Its western opening is directly opposite the Royal Arcade. A neat homage to Cardiff architectural tradition, albeit bigger and better by nature.

The shopping centre flat roof surface serves as ground floor for the Hayes apartment blocks, arranged in an E shape (south to north) to create large courtyards for access. In two years from now these will be flourshing roof terrace gardens. A splendid use of space. Three sections enclosing one courtyard are already constructed up to fifth floor level. The others have hardly started, with the exception of the lift tower which stands majestically on its own, safe for the scaffolding tower of stairs which accompanies it to dizzy heights.

I felt very privileged to be there with my camera, and took 75 photographs, of which I had to discard 20%, out of focus or shaky, a high figure for me. I should have taken my posh new camera with its anti-shake device and superior automatic features, as my top pocket camera really struggled to work out exposures in high contrast interior settings, and produced many overexposed pictures which needed adjustment later. Never mind, I'll be going back in two weeks time for the 'topping out' ceremony. I'll need to get some handling practice in the meanwhile, to overcome clumsiness as it's too bulky to go in the top pocket, and needs a belt and pouch container.

The photos are in a file of their own on my redevelopment photo blog

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