Celebrating the heritage and culture of the Valleys of South Wales – designs breathe life back into the abandoned 130-year-old Rhondda Tunnel, creating a unique visitor destination and placing Wales on the map for global tourism. Originally conceived as a footpath and cycling route, the scheme radically reinvents the tunnel as a route, place, and destination, reconnecting communities at either end.
The concept reinvents the tunnel as a route, digital art gallery and performance space, creates a hotel and geothermal spa at the eastern entrance, and an art gallery and community facilities to the west. Conceived as a series of tectonic plates, the hotel is nestled into the undulating landscape like a piece of embedded land art. An exoskeleton of digitally constructed timber ribs alludes to the movement of a train as it disappears into the tunnel. Referencing local rail heritage, the art gallery is conceived as a lump of coal with scorched black timber cladding elevated above the tunnel entrance on stilts.
Working alongside digital art consultancy Lumen Art Projects, ideas were explored for innovative installations that would tell tales of the tunnels past.
Light wells and ventilation shafts within the tunnel are lined with metal to create an immersive experience as they capture sounds of the valley, or broadcast music performances to communities above ground. The largest is turned into a means of escape and evolves into a viewing tower above.
A materials palette of timber, glass and greening reflects the rural setting and supports the sustainable agenda. Rainwater and run-off is collected within a rain garden, and used to reduce fresh water demand and consumption. The scheme will be designed to achieve BREEAM Excellent or equivalent, with opportunities explored for use of geothermal energy sources.