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Pierhead: The building that defeats the modern architecture around it

Pierhead Cardiff

The Pierhead Building, the former home of the Bute Docks Company still stands along Cardiff Bay welcoming the history buffs.

The red-bricked Pierhead building at Cardiff Bay
The Pierhead helped define what Cardiff now is and as a tribute to its significance, it still stands tall among a flush of new and modern architecture in the Bay.

Sailors of the past always searched for the red-bricked Pierhead accompanied by the famous Welsh Big Ben on Tiger Bay which greeted them as they entered the port.

The Pierhead was an indication of home for most, while for many others, it was a glimpse into the place that they would call home.

The multiple chandeliers that hang from the detailed ceiling in the Main Hall is a sight to behold.

Commissioned by the Third Marquess of Bute, it was built in 1897 as an administrative building for the Bute Docks Company later renamed as the Cardiff Railway Company, the Pierhead is the only historical building that still stands among other modern pieces of architecture on Mermaid Quay, including the Welsh Senedd, which maintains and runs the Pierhead now.

Mosaic tiled wall along the staircase
Textured turquoise mosaic tiles dominate the walls of the building giving the insides a pop of colour.

The Pierhead was constructed from Ruabon Terracotta, and its rich red colour remains unfaded continuing to capture the attention of busy onlookers.

Influenced by the French-Gothic style, the Pierhead has many terracotta sculptures and a variety of ornamentation.

Huw Clarke, the visitor engagement officer appointed by the Senedd believes that Cardiff’s multi-cultural history could be traced back to the international trade that plied its way through the port. In a way, the Pierhead was witness to how Cardiff became the bustling city it is today.

Huw, a Cardiff resident for a decade, is an expert about the history of the Pierhead. Not once did he have to think to answer any of my questions.

The visitation hours begin from 9.30 on weekdays while it opens up at 10 on the weekends and closes at 16.30 every day. The former office room used by staff is now called the Future’s Gallery hosts art exhibitions that celebrate what Cardiff is today.

The Futures Gallery hosts exhibitions where local and international artists display their work which is usually based on the society and culture of Cardiff and Wales.

It often caters to school groups — educating the new generation. Nevertheless, it’s a definite visit for people who enjoyed their history lessons.