Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Friday, 20 November 2009
Peter Finch: The changing face of Real Cardiff

Peter Finch - photo by John Briggs

Writer Peter Finch turns his eye for the third time to the new buildings and lost landscapes of the Welsh capital.

Could I still find anything new to say about this drizzle-drenched place?

Certainly. Cardiff - capital of so many things - changed and still changing.

The western world's boom may have bust but the Cardiff landscape still keeps on shifting.

Real Cardiff volume three arrives on a new wave of Cardiffian optimism.

New shopping malls keep out 'the unwanted and the unwashed'

The new centre is open, a new landscape spreads. Streets are wide and clean, lit like glory, full of buskers and traders and people in swarms. The malls beckon like Beijing stadia.

There is high rise everywhere. New hotels, new stores, new apartments, new administrations. Blocks that glisten, house offices, corporations, enterprises, libraries.

Stores selling everything any Western purchaser could ever want (except maybe a can of beans or a packet of screws) open in droves.

Further out, Canton's Chapter Arts Centre becomes a giant all-welcoming bar for the creative millions.

Ninian Park moves itself to an aluminium and grass site of modernist wonder and surrounds itself with new stores that go on forever.

The Bay thrashes skywards with flickering I-gotta-have-one apartments. The Ferry Road peninsular flexes its sports-driven muscles. If a city could sing as the wind blows through its buildings then this one would.

From the Hodge Building
The city and the bay as seen from the top of the former Hodge House

I've investigated just what it is that makes the Welsh capital work. I've looked into just how nuclear the city is.

I've spent a day in the company of Wales Millennium Centre architect Jonathan Adams and climbed the city's highest buildings. I've walked the routes of old and vanished coal railways with the photographer John Briggs. I've checked out what's happened to Cardiff's swimming pools as they morph into the future.

I've wandered the city's arcades. Looked at the public art works. I've told the story of how wine first reached Cardiff and how that changed things, forever.

I've gone underground to see what others don't.

Away from the centre I've checked the town's ancient boundaries, watched creativity move from the west to the east. I've looked into what remains of Cardiff's once booming heavy industry.

I've visited the city's final beach. I've walked the barrage, checked Ocean Park, looked for the drowned subway, the lost Red House and Torchwood's hidden base.

Out west I've found the racecourse, Leckwith's hilltop vineyard and the Apache Shadows fans of Penarth. I've climbed the Garth, wandered Llanishen, Whitchurch, and the Ridgeway and Ruperra beyond.

Cardiff - best place in Wales - you can do anything here, find yourself, lose yourself, buy the universe, sell your soul.

Real Cardiff 3 by Peter Finch is published by Seren

In pictures: Real Cardiff
19 Nov 09 |  Arts & Culture
In pictures: Notes from a City
07 Dec 09 |  Arts & Culture
Big Little City: Cardiff Characters
27 Jul 09 |  Arts & Culture



Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific