This St David’s Day marks 15 years since the Senedd building was officially opened, on 1 March 2006, as the iconic and innovative home of Welsh democracy.

Whilst the doors of the building remain closed to the public, due to risks of COVID-19, the anniversary offers an opportunity to recall how the building came to be with archive photos and architectural drawings gathered for an online gallery on the Senedd website and social media.

Visitors can still marvel at the architecture safely in a 360˚ immersive tour which allows people to roam the building, including restricted areas such as the debating Siambr. There’s  also  an opportunity to ask questions and learn all about the Senedd and upcoming election in online presentation sessions.

“With the Senedd Election just around the corner, it is an exciting time for the Senedd, with additional emphasis on connecting with people across the country to educate, inspire and emphasise the importance of Using Their Voice with their vote, and to remember to register by the all-important deadline on 19 April,” says Richard Gwyn Jones from the Senedd visitor team who has guided tour groups from all corners of the world since the building opened.

“The Senedd is one of Wales’ most recognised buildings – iconic and renowned across the world. Although we cannot welcome visitors through the doors on the 15th anniversary of its opening, we are proud to keep the building open safely for people across the globe with our virtual 360 tour, online sessions and exhibitions and to continue to give people a chance to get to know their Senedd wherever in Wales they may be.”

Take a tour in an immersive 360˚ experience

In the immersive 360⁰ experience of the Senedd, people can meet the tour guides, view exhibitions, and explore the building’s iconic design. Moving around the building, directing the journey by clicking on the screen, people will find links, images and videos to find out more about the Senedd’s history and purpose. And, with the correct equipment, they can even experience the tour in Virtual Reality.

Navigating around the Senedd, the tour takes people behind the scenes to restricted areas where visitors don’t usually go for security reasons – including the Siambr at the heart of the building’s design and purpose.

Here the virtual visitors can take in the unique design of the circular debating chamber and the distinctive funnel which floods the space with natural light reflected from the roof to below ground. Highlights include lighe specially commissioned Heart of Wales artwork by Swansea-based artist Alexander Beleschenko  at the centre of the Siambr, and the one-of-a-kind sculptural maps of Wales and steel traditional dresser made by renowned blacksmith and artist Angharad Pearce Jones.

Online engagement sessions

Free online presentations and workshops, in Welsh and English, are also available weekly to learn all about the Senedd, how it works and its impact on people’s lives in Wales. life.

A recently added session  focuses on the 2021 Senedd Election, emphasising the value of Using Your Voice and remembering to register by 19 April. All the information about voting and the elections, and how to attend the presentation sessions, are on the Senedd Election website

15 years of the award-winning home of democracy

Designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the building was opened by the Queen on St David’s Day 2006 and was the first building in Wales to achieve a BREEAM excellent rating. The building has since won numerous architecture and sustainability awards for its environmentally friendly features, including: 2007 Civic Trust Award; 2007 Chicago Athenaeum International Award; 2006 RIBA National Award; 2006 RIBA Stirling Prize Building of the Year Shortlist.

The building makes extensive use of Welsh materials like slate from Cwt-y-Bugail quarry near Blaenau Ffestiniog, oak from Pembrokeshire and steel from TATA Steel Port Talbot and it also embodies in physical form the values that underpin the Senedd, including environmental sustainability, transparency, and openness of democracy.

Sustainability is also an important part of the building, with sustainable energy pumping heat from the ground, rainwater gathered for recycling in toilets, irrigation and maintenance, and a ventilation system allowing natural flow of fresh air.   Find out more about the building on the Senedd website