Titanic Belfast is one of the most distinctive structures of this century – and it’s only 2012.
The largest Titanic visitor experience in the world, Titanic Belfast is also the biggest ever investment project in Northern Ireland. Since it began taking shape almost two years ago, its distinctive angles have been a glittering and exciting addition to the Belfast skyline– and it hasn’t even opened yet.
The angular shape is the most eye-catching. Resembling the four hulls of a ship, this document from the concept architects illustrates the design evolution in a fascinating way; water crystals, an amorphous iceberg, the White Star logo, dynamic shards, shipyard prows, and plated bows all inform the final design.
The final evolution to four hulls and one crystal is explained by the architects:
Four plated hulls now ring a crystal atrium, clothed in their faceted plates of aluminium echoing waves and ice. The final form encompasses all that that went before: crystal, iceberg, star and bow, embedding multiple metaphors within this finished building.
And if you’re lucky enough to get an aerial view the building will resemble the White Star Line insignia – it is quite the multi-tasker, isnt it!
The 90ft hull-a-likes (the same height of Titanic from keel to bridge, naturally) are clad in three thousand 3D aluminum plates creating the greatest shine since hair serum was invented. The anodized aluminium plates are known as ‘waves’, and 2,000 of them are completely unique in shape, while the other standard 1,000 are interspersed between them, giving the diamond sparkle. If the sun is shining during your visit, I’d advise to pack your sunglasses. Another nifty effect is the placement of pools of water right at the base, which makes it look even bigger and shinier. If, indeed, that were possible.
The construction of the building was surprisingly fast considering it took the “largest ever concrete pour on the island to form its foundations”. Interestingly, (and we’re not sure if this was intended or not but it’s blowing our minds!) the time period of construction actually mirrored that of the ‘Ship of Dreams’ itself: about three years. In December 2009, the site was desolate and ready for kick off. Feast your eyes on how it unfolded in this nifty timelapse.
The building is twice the size of Belfast City Hall covering 150,700 sq.ft with its highest point at 38.5 metres (126 ft) from the plaza level. Inside is a vast labyrinth of escalators, walkways, and walls so textured you just want to reach out and touch them. It even has the longest free-span escalator on the island at 25 metres long.
The compass rose on the floor of the atrium makes for a fabulous first impression.
And, should you be holding a conference or a making use of the banqueting suite here (yes, it does seem to have everything, doesn’t it?), you’ll be able to get up close and personal with the Grand Staircase (you know, from that scene in the movie).
Its location was well considered as the building sits just 100 metres from where the Titanic launched. Pair that with its proximity to Titanic and Olympic Slipways, the Harland and Wolff drawing offices and Hamilton Graving Dock, where the SS Nomadic is now berthed and you truly are in Titanic town.
“When you stand in the middle of the building, 100 feet in front of you, if you look out northwards – that’s where the Titanic was built,” said project director Noel Molloy.
The creative force behind Titanic Belfast were Eric Kuhne and Mark Evans of Civic Arts / Eric R. Kuhne & Associates with executive architecture by Todd Architects and all those lovely builders you see are from Harcourt Construction (NI) Limited.
And if this is how fabulous it looked during construction, just imagine the fireworks come opening time…
Titanic Belfast will open to the public on March 31 2012, exactly 100 years since the Titanic was completed. Follow its construction progress, find out more about the Titanic Belfast Festival and stay tuned for our live blog, which is taking place from the centre the day before it opens. Yes, we’re excited too!
All images were courtesy of Titanic Belfast and their photographer Chris Heaney