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The Riverrun Observatory

Part 2 Project 2014
Sarah Jennings
Ulster University UK
The Blackstaff River and the River Farset were once key water bodies for the city of Belfast but today are buried beneath our feet. In the changing management of the water, the city has created unused river infrastructure that has been forgotten. The Riverrun Observatory is located at the site of the disused McConnell Lock and Weir along the River Lagan. It acts as a marker at the entry point of the culverted Blackstaff River entering the River Lagan and creates a discourse between public and water that has been concealed for many years.

The journey to the Observatory begins from the city centre, along the Lagan towpath. Approaching the site, the building emerges across the water, two towers signify entry points into the Lagan and into the Observatory, whilst a new bridge allows the viewer to cross the river and enter the building. The Observatory is realised as a series of galleries. The viewer moves through the spaces in a winding journey, from light open galleries into intimate spaces, experiencing the rivers journey through art, digital media and sound and eventually finding a spot on the River Promenade. Not only will the building be a viewing platform for the public, a water observatory, but also the building physically is built on a platform on the River Lagan.

The observatory rests on a concrete plinth that rises out of the water on solid columns. Thick walls, resembling ancient ruins, create four pieces: the Monitoring Tower, the Digital Galleries, the Flooded Crypt and the Sound Hall. Around this mass, delicate timber boarding lines the concrete. Light slices through openings and between the timber strands, while slits of greenery and water are visible from inside, constantly locating the viewer between forest and water. From the river’s edge the pieces appear as solid timber boxes set into the concrete plinth. Around the three gallery spaces, a perimeter of concrete columns creates a covered river promenade and creates what appears as a concrete forest around the timber boxes.

Sarah Jennings

Mr Paul Clarke
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