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The Belfast Lough Lookout and Orientation Centre

Part 2 Project 2013
Joanne Smyth
Ulster University Belfast UK
Belfast takes its name from the Irish, “Béal Feirste”, meaning, “mouth of the sandbanks”. The coastal city, which is sandwiched between two groups of hills has, over time, left the confines of dry land and sprawled out east into Belfast Lough. This development has engulfed the characteristic sandbanks which give the place its name, consuming vital natural habitats in its path. These spectacular surroundings which provided refuge for thousands of native and migratory species of wildlife have been all but been destroyed.

This project re-examines the relationship between land and sea, to inform how future growth in coastal locations might occur in a more sensitive way. With 50% of the world’s coastal wetlands having disappeared in the last 100 years, now is the time to reconsider our view on the type of hard edged developments which contribute to this loss of essential natural environments. By taking into account the complex ecology of coastal wetlands, the needs of the flora and fauna, and the need for access and use of the waters edge in a busy harbour area, a new strategy of coastal development is proposed.

The Belfast Lough Lookout and Orientation Centre brings together the local knowledge of the Harbour Authority, the enthusiasm of the RSPB, and the expertise of environmental scientists to provide a centre for the management and protection of the fragile lough shore. The project looks at a novel strategy of ‘unclaiming’ the reclaimed, and unused, land for the future, allowing nature to thrive whilst allowing increased public access to the water’s edge.

Sitting in a newly formed wetland, which compliments the remainder of the historic sandbanks, the building allows the public to experience Belfast Lough at first hand, backing up this direct experience with expert knowledge on hand. By heightening the visitors awareness of the daily fluctuations of the birds and tides, and seasonal changes in the landscape, this project aims to reconnect, educate and inspire generations to come, rekindling the connection to the sea which for many Belfast people has sadly been lost.


Joanne Smyth

Tutor(s)
Mr Paul Clarke

2013
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