teaching unplugged – in brief

Archive for May, 2009

city hall, city hall

cardiff city hall (Small)

Cardiff City Hall, venue for IATEFL 2009 

One of the nice things about attending conferences can be gaining access to, and exploring, the venue.

I have vivid memories of the university buildings in Sevilla where Scott and myself ran an early dogme workshop in a room more suited to a 19th century medical demonstration; steep banks of wooden seating, a dusty darkness deep inside Sevilla’s sunlight, and at least one nervous exhibit (me) on show.

Without perhaps possessing the charm or romance of that university’s setting (the oldest part of the building is a former tobacco factory, and the setting for Bizet’s Carmen), Cardiff City Hall is nevertheless a distinguished building. It is one of a number of showpiece designs which came to symbolise Edwardian architecture, although it was actually commissioned – from an award-winning design – in the year of Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, 1897.

Prize-winning town hall designs from that year may also be seen in Belfast and Colchester, while visits to Stockport and Lancaster can be enlivened by the sights of the Town Hall and Ashton Memorial respectively. The Memorial stands alone on a hill outside town, and is seen to advantage from the M6 motorway, a promise to holiday-makers bound for the Lake District that proper hills are not far away.

The designers of Cardiff Town Hall, Lanchester and Rickards, are an interesting pair: one patrician, the other (Rickards) a self-made man whose career and personality are explored in a stimulating article – which includes a critique of formal, top-down education – at the following site:

I hoped to report that, pursuing the operatic theme begun in Sevilla, the Ferrier Hall in which we gave our talk in Cardiff was named after the contralto Kathleen Ferrier. However, I note that Ferrier Hall, ‘a bright and flexible functions space on the first floor of City Hall’ , was in fact named after a former Lord Mayor of Cardiff. Oh well.

In lieu of a snapshot – the camera on my mobile phone was on a setting that gives City Hall the curious hue of a postcard left for too long in the window of a rural post office – I attach a sketch of same.