A mini history of the Magic Roundabout: Splott’s most famous landmark

After almost 25 years, the Magic Roundabout is having a facelift.  When the road signs disappeared last month, leaving oddly alluring geometric skeletons, residents were quick to voice concerns over the future of the quirky roundabout and were relieved to hear that Cardiff Council was just giving it a spruce, not removing it all together.

Magic Roundabout 2

Photo by Tamsin Stirling

But how much do we know about our iconic traffic island?  Read on for an insight into how it came about.

The roundabout was commissioned as part of Cardiff Bay Public Art Strategy in 1992.  Artist Pierre Vivant was selected for the job and came up with the design, using road signs to create geometric shapes.

Local company, Standard Signs, was employed for the original installation and is also carrying out the renovations, so the roundabout reinstallation should be in good hands.

The roundabout artwork consists of five geometric shapes: cube, sphere, pyramid, cone and cylinder.  All of the structures are covered in reflecting traffic signs denoting speed limits and other road traffic rules and alerts.  The roundabout is a busy traffic meeting point and road signs turned into art seem a fitting tribute.

The Magic Roundabout even has a proper name!  Its official arty title is ‘Landmark’, though I doubt that anyone other than the artist and the people who commissioned it will ever call it that!

It has found fame far and wide and in 2011, the Magic Roundabout featured in a calendar of famous roundabouts in Wales

Work on the Magic Roundabout was scheduled to be finished by the end of September, so things are a little behind schedule.  Fingers crossed the psychedelic sculptures will be back in all their magical glory soon.

For more on the facelift, click here.

Magic Roundabout 1

Photo by Tamsin Stirling

To read more about the Cardiff Public Art Strategy and find out about other sculptures and landmarks created as a result, click here.

One last thing; the Magic Roundabout isn’t the only piece of public art in Splott.  The big red box with the blue lightening and zig-zaggy yellow thingy on Tyndall Street is also officially recognised.  Its proper title is ‘Blue Flash, Power Box and Mesh Chips’ and was created by John Gingell in 1994.  Mesh chips just makes me think of Splott Fish and Chip shop, but other than that, I like it!

Are you a fan of the Magic Roundabout?  What do you think of Splott’s public art?  What’s your favourite piece of public art in Cardiff?  Share your thoughts in the comment boxes below.