Repurposing an abandoned rail tunnel into the world’s longest digital art gallery

Scott Brownrigg, together with tourism consultant Steven & Associates, reveal concept plans to repurpose the longest rail tunnel in Wales into the longest digital art gallery and performance space in the world. 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 helping to place Wales on the map for global tourism. 

Originally conceived as a footpath and cycling route, the scheme radically reinvents Rhondda Tunnel as a route, place, and destination, reconnecting communities at either end. Interventions both complement and protect the existing landscape and historic features. 

A new hotel, located on the outskirts of the village of Blaencwm at the eastern entrance of the tunnel, will provide guests with a unique experience of the Welsh valleys. A play on parallax, movement, velocity – an exoskeleton of digitally constructed timber ribs changes across the length of the building, alluding to the movement of a train as it disappears into the tunnel. 

The western entrance – located within the village of Blaengwynfi – will be transformed into a visitor centre with art galleries, cafe, external performance space and digital theatre. Referencing local rail heritage, the galleries are conceived as a lump of coal with scorched black timber cladding elevated above the steep slopes of the tunnel entrance on slender stilts. 

Following structural repair and restoration, the almost two mile long tunnel will open to the public as a pedestrian and cycle route, digital art gallery and performance space, with a viewing tower above. Working alongside digital art consultancy Lumen Art Projects, installations will spark the imagination and tell tales of the tunnels past. 

The scheme will be designed to achieve BREEAM Excellent or equivalent, with opportunities explored for use of geothermal energy sources. 

Alongside the creation of new jobs, the scheme is estimated to generate 40,000 overnight stays and 150,000 day-trips, and contribute more than £16m to the local economy per annum. A unique combination of landscape, wellness and ecology, the scheme will capture the imagination of locals, tourists and investors alike, boost the economy, stimulate regeneration, and enhance national pride.