Friday, 12 October 2012

Reface the Base: Students Devise Grand Design for 40,000sq ft Retail Space at Victoria Square Belfast

A group of Northern Irish architecture students have created a unique design proposal, which is being considered for a prime 40,000 square feet retail unit in Northern Ireland’s largest shopping centre.

The massive basement unit, located below the Ann Street entrance to Victoria Square, Belfast, is currently unoccupied and owners, Commerz Real created a unique ‘Reface the Base’ competition, inviting local students to submit plans as to how the space could be used.

Reface the Base: University of Ulster architecture students, Carrie Gillespie, William Brewster and
Sarah Mitchell are presented with their prize for winning Victoria Square’s ‘Reface the Base’ design
competition by Aline Djaider, UK real estate manager, Commerz Real AG (second from right). The
student’s innovative design, depicted in the artists impressions pictured proposed the introduction of
smaller retail units aimed at independent retailers; a novel amphitheatre for concerts and live performances;
a catwalk for fashion events; a children’s play area, crèche and bowling alley in a vacant 40,000 sq ft unit
in the basement of Victoria Square. Owners Commerz Real are now conducting a feasibility study to
determine whether the proposal is commercially viable.

After a lengthy judging process, overseen by leading retail and architecture experts, an innovative plan, submitted by University of Ulster architecture students Sarah Mitchell, William Brewster and Carrie Gillespie was deemed the winner. The judges singled out the plan, which included features such as smaller retail units aimed at independent retailers; a novel amphitheatre for concerts and live performances; a catwalk for fashion events; a children’s play area, crèche, bowling alley for its creative use of the space. 

Officials at Commerz Real were so impressed by the students’ plans that they have agreed to carry out a feasibility study on the design proposal, which could potentially see the project brought to fruition in Victoria Square.

Commenting on behalf of the students at a presentation event in Victoria Square, Carrie Gillespie said: “We are delighted to have been named the winners of the Reface the Base competition and are so thankful to Commerz Real, Victoria Square, University of Ulster and all of the competition partners for giving us this unique opportunity to use our design skills in a landmark building at the heart of the business life of Belfast."

Commenting on the winning design, Aline Djaider, UK real estate manager, Commerz Real AG said:

“The Reface the Base competition offered an exceptional opportunity for Northern Ireland’s next generation of architecture students to get their teeth into the real world of retail design. We were impressed by all of the plans submitted but Sarah, William and Carrie’s proposal stood out as a highly imaginative concept, which gave great consideration to how a significant space such as this could be used for commercial benefit, whilst adding to the retail mix of Victoria Square."   

Jim Berry, professor in Urban Planning and Property Development, University of Ulster added:

“The Reface the Base competition has provided students in University of Ulster’s Faculty of Art, Design and the Built Environment with the opportunity to bring flair, innovation and creativity to the design of an interesting space in the basement of the Victoria Square complex.

This has given them a fantastic platform to showcase their creative abilities, by coming up with innovative ideas which could potentially enhance the role and function of Belfast city centre as a retail, business, cultural and entertainment hub. It is also an excellent example of how our students have been able to meet the expectations of such a high profile company as Commerz Real.”

Victoria Square.
© Copyright Albert Bridge and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

In addition to the students’ designs being considered for implementation, each member of the winning group received a £1000 Victoria Square Gift Card, and the winning designs will feature in a leading UK professional architect journal. Each student that participated in the competition also received a £100 Victoria Square Gift Voucher for taking part in the competition.

The judges of the Reface the Base competition included Aline Djaider, UK real estate manager, Commerz Real AG; Kyle Alexander, former chief executive of Laganside, now programme director of the Maze Long Kesh programme delivery unit; Julie Boyd, Savills, London, associate director, Central London and International Investment; Joe Jordan, president of Belfast Chamber of Commerce; Jim Berry, professor in Real Estate, School of the Built Environment, University of Ulster; Doug Pilkington, formally architect director with BDP & responsible for the delivery of Victoria Square and Irwin McNeill, director of Rapport Architects, formally architect director with BDP with responsibility for Victoria Square. Liam Dornan, chairman of RICS Building Control Professional Group acted as a technical advisor to the judging panel. 

The project will be exhibited at Victoria Square on the Lower Ground Floor next to the Customer Service Desk during the next week.

No comments: