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Architecture Centre For Belfast

Part 1 Project 2001
Aidan Monaghan
Queen's University Belfast, UK
A key objective of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects was the intention of the RSUA to reach out to its members and to the public in general. It has been acknowledged that the nature of the current premises is at variance with the society's aims for increased accessibility. Situated in a leafy suburb of Belfast, Mount Charles has an air of exclusivity about it, presenting a somewhat forbidding face to the public with its solid back door and intercom entry.

The importance of a downtown Belfast location is paramount in terms of exposure to and accessibility by the public. The Cathedral Quarter was considered as an appropriate location. Recent developments such as environmental improvements around the Cathedral, the establishment of the Circus School and the refurbishment of warehouse buildings to provide cafe, studio, office and residential space represent a high quality benchmark for the future development.

Within the Cathedral Quarter is a significant number of 'soft' sites which represent a major opportunity to shape the future of area: one such being the car park site at the junction of Hill Street and Waring Street, adjacent to the Cotton Court complex of the building facing the Ulster Bank Building. Situated at the perceived gateway to the Cathedral Quarter, this would be an ideal site for the new Architecture Centre.

Aidan Monaghan

This student has strong ideas ingenious means to created atmospheric images. His initial observations for the Architecture Centre project reflected a subtle approach in his understanding of the grain of the Cathedral Quarter and how it might inform his designs. The manipulation of natural light was a main concern and was developed through photographic studies of working models, which demonstrated at any early stage what he was setting out to achieve, together with a lucid interpretation of the brief.

He was rigorous in his handling of the organisation of the building, which was well resolved at interim stage, thus giving him the opportunity to develop the scheme in detail, demonstrating both technical and artistic ability. Modest, self critical, conscientious and creative, he has the potential to be a well rounded student. He is a keen observer of everything around him, which inspires his work on various levels.>

The Ulster region of the Royal Institute of British Architects is seriously considering a move from its existing house/home to the newly designated arts quarter of Belfast. This project explores this move into the historic, tighter grain of older Belfast. The solution is an inwardly focused box, with glimpses from outside – but the reward is on entering the inner volume – like many of the older grand buildings in the area. The relationship between and within exterior and interior was investigated through large models - lit and photographed to explore the potential reality of his proposition – as opposed to the distorted CAD generated artificial world often presented. The model studies are enforced with technical considerations of outward finishes and internal construction. Spencer Fung – on meeting this student and his work for the first time– exclaimed relief at seeing a student considering a real building, a real brief in a real setting – and talking about architecture – which can be a rarity in our current architectural world.

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