Friday, 30 October 2009

Construction Excellence Awards 2009

Above:Image of the Toome Bypass & Bridge via Belfast Telegraph

In celebration of its 10th Anniversary, the Construction Employers Federation (CEF), this year added an extra category to the Construction Excellence awards; the pursuit of the best construction project completed in Northern Ireland in the last decade. Projects had been chosen from ten categories ranging from education to entertainment. The award was determined by a public vote undertaken in conjunction with The Belfast Telegraph.

The clear overall winner, announced on the 8th October at the 2009 ceremony, was the Toome Bypass (category: roads). As a regular user of the bypass I can understand why it amassed 54% of the vote. Having reduced average travelling times between Belfast and Derry from almost 3hrs to 1hr and 30 min, this in itself is worthy of recognition. Not to mention the simplistic beauty of the bridge which spans the River Bann, a key component of the bypass.

Designed with both road users, the people of Toome and the local environment in mind the project has been a consistent success. From reducing carbon emissions through the village, the likelihood of an accident within the village and encouraging environmental change though the carefully considered landscaping surrounding the bypass (which included the planting of some 68,000 trees), whilst also retaining access to the river for leisure activities; the bypass presented a strong case against it's competitors. Comments by CEF Managing Director, John Armstrong:

“What the shortlist for the building of the decade really demonstrates is the widespread and positive impact the construction industry has had in Northern Ireland. It is no exaggeration to say that the construction industry has brought benefits to practically every single person living in Northern Ireland... The poll has generated an outstanding response from the public. The voting area of their website has had 10,000 unique visitors, over 150 comments have been left and around 16,000 votes have been cast.”

The statistics also help to illuminate the interest the public in NI have in their built environment.

The close runner up in the poll was Victoria Square, Belfast (category: retail). Another key award of the evening was the Overall Award, given to Patton Construction for Wellington Street Presbyterian Church, Ballymena.

More info
CEF Homepage
Belfast Telegraph: Construction Excellence Awards
SIB: Toome Bypass

Thursday, 29 October 2009

UU Architek10 society launches eStudio

Above: Image of Barcelona apartment taken by Roy Fitzpatrick, via

Architek10, a new student architecture society at the University of Ulster, has launched its online eStudio. The founders explain their vision for the society and the online resource below.

Architek10 was established early last year as a platform for a meaningful and altruistic architectural discourse between students, professionals and other interested parties with a desire to learn and develop. While based at the University of Ulster, the society is keen to extend its reach beyond the bounds of academic life and actively engage with the tangible context of Belfast and Northern Ireland as a whole.

Architek10 launched last summer with an inaugural lecture from Hackett-Hall-McKnight, focused around their competition winning design for the upcoming Old Museum Arts Centre (OMAC). As Architek10 becomes more established it is the intention to extend this lecture series, and is currently attempting to source a host of speakers from varying disciplines in order to inform and provoke debate.

Architek10 has recently launched their eStudio, an online base where members, participants and invited guests will publish a broad scope of material ranging from articles to photography and videos. Each piece is accompanied by a feedback column whereby visitors to the site can respond directly to the work presented, enabling dynamic debate and development available to anyone who visits the site. Once the article is read, the issues and concerns it raises along with a range of differing opinions are readily accessible beneath.

Architek10’s first newsletter is available on the eStudio. Its 10 articles cover a diversity of topics. They range from a student perspective of the FAB summer school to the parallels between architecture and music, a commentary on the inaugural lecture to a nightmarish vision of Spanish DIY and an interview with Ciaran Mackel regarding the recession.

Architek10’s eStudio can be found at We welcome all Ideas and encourage participation from anyone with an interest in Art, Architecture and the ties that bind them. If you would like to become involved in our lecture series please contact Andrew Molloy ([email protected]) or Fiona Shannon ([email protected]).

Andrew Molloy Fiona Shannon Roy Fitzpatrick

Architek10's eStudio

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

New public art commission at Belfast Harbour

Above: Site of the new public art commission at Belfast Harbour. Image via

The Belfast Harbour Public Art Commission is offering a £100,000 budget for a new public artwork at the Dargan Entrance to Belfast Harbour estate.

Submission deadline: 11th January 2010

More info:

Friday, 16 October 2009

Tactility Factory wins "Next Big Thing" award

Photograph by Amberlea Neely

Tactility Factory, who exhibited their Girli Concrete show at PLACE back in February, have won the the Northern Ireland Science Park (NISP) CONNECT’s search for ‘the next big thing’ - Ruth Morrow and Trish Belford were presented with a £10,000 cheque as overall winners of the entrepreneurs £25k Award.

Friday, 9 October 2009

This Sunday: Paul Larmour discusses the Waring Street Bank

Click to enlarge

Part of the ongoing RUA Exhibition season, Dr Paul Larmour (QUB) discusses the Waring Street Bank and its architect, Charles Lanyon, this Sunday at 3pm.

More info: Royal Ulster Academy website

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

James Hughes Competition winner

Congratulations to Niamh Madden from Co. Offaly - James Hughes has chosen her as the winner of a print from his Spectres of Place exhibition for the best comment in the book during the show - her comment is below...

Sometimes, when dust settles and cobwebs slowly creep across walls, we are reminded of how much the fragments of our lives can be reflected in objects. The dull and mute tones of several pieces in this collection are fascinating, because they show moments of nil reflection - the bike light no longer shines, the stove is matte and tarnished. Jesus looks out through once-polished glass.

These moments evoke in me a sense of hope - no longer can we see ourselves in the shined and polished surfaces, but our lives can be immortalised and reconstructed through objects left behind. Thanks to James for taking me out of myself for ten minutes of brief, but meaningful and optimistic thought.

PLACE Archives: James Hughes - Spectres of Place

Saturday, 3 October 2009

James Hughes Q&A;

Above: Detail from an image in the Spectres of Place exhibition by James Hughes, which ran at PLACE in September

Following on from the success of his Spectres of Place exhibition at PLACE in September, James Hughes speaks to A-level Art student Ellen Warwick and answers some questions about the influences, techniques and interests to be seen in his powerful photography.

1. What inspired you to get involved in photography?

I always loved art and history, but was frustrated at being unable to render well through paint, etc. I think in the end photography found me and we have been together ever since - eclipsing the original frustrations and sustaining me through a never-ending journey.

2. For how long have you been involved in photography?

Approx 30 years, a passion that is a way of life as much as a way of seeing.

3. Have any of your photographs been inspired by other artists/photographers? If so who are they and how did you come across them?

I have many who have shaped my work either directly or indirectly, indeed like life itself. I also include the equally important inspiration of poetry & literature and cinema & music as they all work together in forming my images, conscious/subconscious.

Artists: Caravaggio | Hopper | Schiele | Cornell | Keifer

Photographers: W. Evans | R. Frank | A. Sander | R. Pollidari | S. Vanfleteren

Poets: E.Pound | P.Neruda | C.Pavese | W.B.Yeats | S.Heaney | F.Pessoa

Writers: W.G.Sebald | H.Miller | G.Bachelard | D.H.Lawrence | Murakami

Cinema Directors: A.Tarkovsky | K.Kieslowski | B.Turr & the Camerawork of Christopher Doyle

Music: Bach through to Radiohead

They are all influences I’ve picked up on the journey and now they are the masters who sustain me along the way.

4. Have any of your photographs been altered in any way by using Photoshop or other programmes? If so explain alterations made.

Yes, I use Photoshop though more in a way to clean up my images and colour manage them, also to spot the negatives that need cleaning. I don’t add or manipulate them and try for authenticity in representing.

5. Have you ever tried recreating your photographs by the use of either paints or pencils?

No, though a few artists have with mixed results - for an example of one see:

6. What materials do you find most attractive and why? E.g. metal, wood, plastic or glass.

Wood for its tactile qualities and glass for its transparency and fluid qualities.

7. If you were to recreate an image of rust, which media would you be most interested in and why?

Photography as it’s my tool of choice for representing texture - maybe not so tactile a medium but the most realistic for me.

8. When you see images of rust how do they make you feel?

It conjures up feelings of industry and the trace of time, and on objects like household material culture it can represent past lives and nostalgia.

9. Do you prefer smooth surfaces or rough gritty ones and why?

Rough and gritty as it’s how I see reality, it’s also more interesting, as in not so boring.

10. What do you find most interesting about rusted and corroding surfaces?

Their texture and colour and the way rust has a life as in constant change.


Our thanks are due to both Ellen and James for their permission to reprint this interview.


More info: Spectres of Place in the PLACE Archives

Friday, 2 October 2009

UAHS win right to challenge Queen Street development

Following on from their objection back in August, the UAHS have now won the right to challenge the redevelopment of the EdCo/Athletic Stores building on Belfast's Queen Street.

A surveyors report on the condition of the building concluded that it was now over 110 years old and at the end of its useful life.

It was stressed that the plan was to replace it with a "sympathetic" development without the major faults and safety risks said to currently exist.

The developer's legal team criticised the UAHS for taking 11 months to bring an objection to the planning application, claiming this had caused significant financial pressures.

It was also stressed that the current building was, in parts, dangerous and beyond economic repair.

But granting leave to seek a judicial review, Mr Justice Weatherup held it may be arguable that the proper approach to its removal was not followed.

"When it comes to conservation area buildings it seems to me there are considerations that go beyond the economic case," he said.

He stressed, however, that the case simply called for further explanation from planning authorities which may satisfy the court.

Listing the full judicial review hearing for December, Mr Justice Weatherup was told by a lawyer for the developer that he would recommend giving an undertaking not to carry out any work on the site until proceedings are completed.

Speaking outside the court, Rita Harkin, research officer with the UAHS, said: "This is an absolutely critical case which will expose just how effective conservation areas are in conserving the historic buildings which give them their character."

BBC News: Challenge to Victorian demolition
PLACE Blog: UAHS objection to redevelopment on Queen Street