While I was in South Wales, I had the opportunity to visit the Round Room, which is now in the Welsh School of Architectural Glass, a part of the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. It’s a fascinating room, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. It was once part of Swansea reference library, designed by Henry Holtom of Dewsbury in a classical, Italian style. It was opened in 1887 by William Gladstone (former and subsequent Prime Minister), and contained research material about Wales and Swansea. In the 1950’s it also housed the Welsh Dylan Thomas collection. The library was closed in 2007, and the Round Room is now used for conferences and lectures, music and dance performances, glass events and exhibitions.
As you would expect, the room is circular, and has a diameter of 86ft. It has dark wooden panelling, and a high domed ceiling which is 25ft high in the centre. The dome is white, like a gigantic flower with many thin glass petals, rather like a huge daisy. In the centre of the flower are concentric circles of alternating white and green, one of which is dotted with equidistant orange spots.
Below, and outside circle of the dome is a gallery with wooden panelled pillars, containing shelves and alcoves. The gallery and the wooden pillars are edged by an intricately patterned and scrolled, white metal balustrade.
Below the centre of the dome, on the sand and buff coloured floor, is a geometric pattern of concentric rings, with a small central circle. This circle is surrounded by the long thin triangular arms of an irregular, twelve-pointed star, each triangle piercing the outer ring of the largest circle. It has an eerie, magical feel to it, and has been used by BBC Wales for the filming of Doctor Who episodes ‘Silence in the Library’, and ‘Forest of the Dead’. If you stand on the floor, in the central disc of this geometric design, the acoustics are amazing. The sound of your voice reverberates, and you know that everyone in the room would hear your faintest whisper. As you walk outwards, the acoustics change, and the sound of your voice deadens.
In conclusion, the room is quite extraordinary. The dark wooden panelling, the gallery with the high dome above, and the magical pattern on the floor all combine to create a dramatic, but mysterious ambience.