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Titanic Belfast Prepares for Launch
Following months of patient negotiations, the derelict quays of Queen's Island now echo to the sounds of construction once more. Having been unsuccessful in its bid for BIG Lottery Funding, CivicArts' landmark scheme for redeveloping the historic shipyards has stayed resolutely afloat thanks to the steadfast enthusiasm of developers and regional government.
Belfast City Council emphatically underlined local confidence in Titanic Signature Project's regenerative powers in late 2008, with their unanimous vote to grant the scheme planning consent. On the 27th November 2008, First Minister Peter Robinson announced that the Northern Ireland Government had approved a £43.5 million funding package towards the £97 million development, to which the City Council added its own £10 million contribution.
Five years after the first sketches were drawn, the Titanic Signature Project is now slowly rising up from the slipways of Queen's Island, like the bygone hulls of Harland & Wolff. CivicArts' concept design has succeeded in uniting a diverse range of uses within a single shell, offering a cultural hub for Titanic Quarter that can sustain itself and the surrounding community. Having crafted a compelling form and narrative, CivicArts worked closely with Todd Architects in Belfast to develop the design in working detail, steering it through planning and paving the way for construction to begin.
With Todd Architects acting as lead consultants, Harcourt Construction began work in site 2009 with the stated aim of opening the main attraction in time the centenary of Titanic's maiden voyage in April 2012. Predicted to attract up to 400,000 visitors each year, and creating around 600 jobs in its construction, the Titanic Signature Project is firmly on course to become the principal leisure catalyst for Belfast's new Titanic Quarter.
The Titanic Signature Project
The cultural lynch pin of the new Titanic Quarter, the Titanic Signature Project will transform Queen's Island into a dynamic leisure destination of international significance. Historic precedents have driven the design process, the final form reflecting the industrial legacy of Harland & Wolf and the wider impact of shipbuilding and the sea on Belfast's development. The prow of the building's glass-walled atrium plots a course down the centre of the listed Titanic and Olympic slipways towards the lapping waters of the River Lagan. The project's close proximity to the very site where these two famous leviathans were forged lends it unparalleled levels of authenticity and immediacy that will help make its contents the definitive telling of those liners' stories.
The building's form conjures up a mass of maritime metaphors; its four projecting segments are instantly evocative of ships prows ploughing their way through the North Atlantic swell. Almost the entire facade will be clad in faceted, three-dimensional plates in a pattern recalling of the construction methods of the great ocean liners. Developed with the help of specialist facade contractor Metallbau Frueh and manufactured by Spanwall, the 3,000 anodised aluminium plates are arranged into a complex asymmetrical design, fracturing the reflected light into a series of abstracted waves and breakers.
A powerful engine of regeneration, the project combines valuable amenities and rich experiences to fulfil the needs and expectations of guests and residents alike. The careful balance of cultural and commercial functions has produced a financially sustainable centre capable of raising income directly through tourism and corporate hospitality. With its cantilevered floor plates expanding outwards from a modest footprint, the project delivers these multiple attractions without encroaching upon the historic remnants of the shipyards that are being preserved wherever possible. Most tangible of these are the Slipway Gardens where the outlines of the Olympic and Titanic will be traced into the paving to allow visitors to walk the length of their decks once more.
Internally, the project provides over 12,000 sqm of floor space across 5 levels whose combined height is equivalent to a 10-storey building. These generous ceiling heights allow for suitably large-scale exhibits, the lower levels being controlled environments in which to create atmospheric installations evocative of heavy industry or the depths of a ship's hull. This 'Titanic Experience' is being designed by Europe's leading exhibition designers, Event, whose previous work includes the award-winning Magna Science Adventure Centre and Imperial War Museum North. CivicArts worked closely with Event to develop internal layouts and circulation patterns that would maximise the available exhibition space, dividing it into a logical sequence of 'episodes' within Titanic's story. CivicArts' concept design for the lofty central atrium deliberately evokes the towering forms and jagged, jostling angles of an early 20th century shipyard, creating a dynamic introduction to Event's displays.
Infused with an inherent sense of place, the Titanic Signature Project will present a constant reminder of Belfasts progressive engineering prowess. Planned for completion by 2012 to coincide with the centenary of Titanic's maiden voyage, its graphic silhouette will come to symbolise Belfast's metamorphosis from 19th century engineering powerhouse to 21st century metropolis.
Witness this Titanic Undertaking:
Leading Northern Irish construction and architectural photographer, Donal McCann, has been commissioned by Harcourt to paint a digital portrait of the Titanic Signature Project as it rises up from Queen's Island.
Living in Belfast, Donal is ideally placed to chart the TSP’s progress in all lights and weathers, capturing the changing mood and character of the build as frame turns to form then to finished structure.
You can now keep up-to-date with the TSP’s progress on Donal’s dedicated project page, and read about his on-site experiences via his regular blog:
Donal's Titanic folio:
Donal's photo blog:
Project Clients & Partners:
© CivicArts LLP, 2011