Showing posts with label Cathedral Quarter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cathedral Quarter. Show all posts

Monday, 27 October 2014

Help shape the Cathedral Quarter

Cathedral Quarter Trust (CQT) requests your participation in a survey about the Cathedral Quarter area.

The Cathedral Quarter’s cobbled streets have been home to merchants, revolutionaries and artists since the city began life as a world class centre for industry. Today it is the cultural hub of the city with a diverse population of artists working across disciplines in visual, literary and performing arts, and the creative industries. They sit alongside a thriving range of bars, restaurants and hotels, and of course St Anne’s Cathedral itself. 

Cotton Court Managed Workspace, Belfast. Credit:

The Cathedral Quarter also has three Managed Workspaces, which offer office, studio and commercial spaces. CQT is eager to learn how these buildings are perceived and understood.

CQT supports the crucial balance of arts, creative industries and business interests in the Quarter, and promotes the historic and cultural appeal of the area. The Trust is asking for your participation to gather information about visiting, or living and working in the Quarter.

Please follow the link below to take part. Comments can be made about a specific location in the Cathedral Quarter by dropping a pin onto the map at that point, you can leave as many comments as you like.

Contribute at this link:
For more information please email [email protected] or phone 028 9031 4011.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Critical Writing Part 2 of 2 - Belfast of New

The following was written by PLACE Volunteer and University of Ulster PhD Student Andrew Molloy as part of a critical writing workshop held at PLACE in January 2013.

This is a critical article on the MAC, meant as a companion piece to a critique of St George's Church by Andrew, found here.

I remember watching the MAC being constructed from the architecture studio of the neighbouring University of Ulster. I distinctly recall the surface of my black coffee shimmering as the building’s piles were driven down into the sleech upon which most of central Belfast rests. I later remember observing the jutting cast concrete forms and, comparing them to the drawings and renders of the building, thinking ‘too complicated, too much going on, too busy.’ In retrospect I see I was becoming ‘Architect,’ and ‘Architect’ could always do better, ‘Architect’ is always cynical.

Now the MAC is open I am a regular visitor; be it for coffee with friends, visiting an exhibition in the galleries or informal tutorials and meetings as part of my research. It’s a building I make use of regularly, all of my initial reservations being erased by the elemental act of utility. In mid January 2013 I was lucky enough to be part of a group to receive a guided tour of the building by project-architect and associate of Hall McKnight architects Nigel Murray. This gave me opportunity to sort through my contradicting thoughts.

The MAC, Saint Anne's Square, Belfast.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The Past in the Present: The Legacy of the Cathedral Quarter

In this series, The Past in the Present, we explore how the historic urban character of a city can be part of a dynamic and continually evolving contemporary society, with an aim to spark debate on the topic of conservation and heritage in our cities and further afield.

Series curated by Ailish Killilea and Anna Skoura.

St. Annes Cathedral, Belfast. (Photo by Ailish Killilea)

In recent years the Cathedral Quarter has been identified as the key cultural district of Belfast, seen to play apivotal role as the focus for Belfast's burgeoning arts and crafts scene. Every year the Cathedral Quarter becomes a beehive of activity with a range of festivals locating here such as the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Open House Festival, Festival of Fools, Belfast Film Festival, Belfast Photo Festival, Out to Lunch Festival and Culture Night.

Culture Night 2010. (photo from Culture Night Belfast)

There are reportedly over 50 creative and cultural organisations located in the Cathedral Quarter presently.Lower rents in the area has helped artists and arts organisations to locate here. But it seems that the character of the area has been a major factor in attracting such a huge catchment of artists. Peter Mutschler, of Paragon Studios, Donegall Street, describes the reason to locate in the Cathedral Quarter: 'I think the reason to move into the premises with studio space on different floors (there are still two businesses)was- and still is- that the spaces are good and it has this kind of stimulating surrounding. The run down building itself has lots of character and the area just has a great atmosphere.'
It is this distinctive character that attracts new public and private investment every year, with adrive to support the cultural quarter's engaging beauty and vitality. Such support for the area has led to plans for regeneration of the Cathedral Quarter in the hope of increasing its utilization.

Map of Belfast, 1690. (Map sourced from Mark Thompson)

The area we know today as the Cathedral Quarter began its establishment right from the birth of the Belfast City in 1613. From this map dating back to 1690 we can see the North Gate and it is this street that is known as North Street. The Belfast River which would have run from the River Lagan down to Millgate now flows under High Street.

Belfast Map, 1791. (Map by Samuel Lewis)

From this map of Belfast in 1791 we can see a street pattern emerging. The Cathedral Quarter is being established, with many of its routes surviving today (Donegall Street, North Street, Waring Street, Rosemary Street, High Street). It is this historic footprint that contributes so much to the city in telling its story as a continually growing and evolving major city.

The following map shows the extent of the Cathedral Quarter today and the listed buildings within its limits that have survived.

Present day Cathedral Quarter map, showing boundaries and listed buildings. (map by Ailish Killilea)

In the late 1990's plans were submitted to the Department of Social Development (DSD) by Ewart Properties to regenerate the Cathedral Quarter area. The following map shows the extent of this planning proposal known as the Royal Exchange and the listed buildings that may be affected by this development.

Map showing the footprint of the Royal Exchange Development. (Map by Ailish Killilea)

Buildings within the footprint of the Royal Exchange include; North Street Arcade, the Exchange & Assembly Rooms, Lower Garfield Street, the First Presbyterian Church and the Masonic Building.

North Street Arcade today. (Photo by UAHS)

The North Street Arcade is a four-storey red brick building with red sandstone detailing was built in 1936 by Cowser & Smyth. The arcade bends through 90◦, with a domed space at the bend, once housing shops, artist groups and exhibition space. It survived the Belfast Blitz during the Second World War and I.R.A. bombings in 1971, but unfortunately it crumbled under an arson attack in April of 2004. Presently the building is listed, but no repairs have been carried out.

The Exchange & Assembly Rooms today. (photo by Ailish Killilea)

The Exchange and Assembly Rooms acquired its name through its function as a building. It was originally built as a one-storey market with arcade in 1769, known as 'The Exchange'. In 1776 Lord Donegall commissioned Sir Robert Taylor to design a two-storey building for social gatherings and dances, when the building then became known as 'The Assembly Rooms'.Fashionable society immediately began referring to the area of Bridge Street, North Street, Waring Street, and Rosemary Lane as 'The Four Corners'. After the 1798 rebellion, the Assembly Rooms served as a trial room for Henry Joy McCracken of the United Irishmen (he was subsequently hung at High Street). In 1845 Sir Charles Lanyon won the commission to convert the Assembly Rooms to the present day structure for Northern Bank. Today the building is in disuse, with much loobying to use the venue as an exhibition hall or theatre.

Lower Garfield Street today. (photo from Lower Garfield)

Lower Garfield Street was known as the Curved Entry until 1910 until it was named after the US President James Garfield. The curved red brick building was built in 1896 by Graeme, Watt and Tullock. The curved red brick building was once occupied by a ballroom, many shops and the Garfield Bar, but today, all that remains is the Tivoli barber shop.

The First Presbyterian Church today. (photo Ailish Killilea)

This building is said to be the oldest surviving place of worship in Belfast city. It was built in 1781-83 by Roger Mullholland and the facade was extended in 1883 and the rear in 1906-07 by Young and Mackenzie. In Victorian time this building would have been seen as less admirable, but the Irish builder of 1867 expressed a different opinion 'for those who believe in Classic churches clothed in cement, this building cannot fail to satisfy their taste' (M. Patton, Central Belfast).

Masonic Hall. (photo by A. Killilea)

The Masonic Building on Rosemary Street was built in 1950-54 by Young & Mackenzie. The three-storey building is made from reconstructed stone with a flat full width pediment and a central bay set slightly forward with balustraded balcony on scrolled barckets over the entrance portico. Above the entrance door are the mason's compasses over fanlight. This was originally the site of The Third Presbyterian Church, finished in 1831 to the designs of John Miller. The Third Presbyterian Church was destroyed in the blitz of 1941. The Provincial Grand Lodge Hall at 15 Rosemary Street is the headquarters of the provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim. Due to the recent harsh economic climate it has been difficult to maintain the hall and lodges are now generally located in Arthur Square Hall. Consideration is been given to the future of the hall, according to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim, alternatives than to sell the building are being sought in order to maintain the Masonic Hall.

Through the discussion of this heritage in the Cathedral Quarter that may possibly face demolition if plans for The Royal Exchange are to go ahead. It is clear that the character of the Cathedral Quarter comes from its colorful and historic past.
Alternative efforts, to that of the Royal Exchange, to regenerate the Cathedral Quarter can be seen in cultural campaigns and projects such as: City Supplements: an Alternative Urban Strategy, The Risk is Rewarding, Barber Shop Quintet, Save the Cathedral Quarter and Let's Get it Right.
Is this historic fabric an integral part of the Cathedral Quarter? If so, is there a way to incorporate such buildings into a design to regenerate the Cathedral Quarter?

Saturday, 5 November 2011

PLACE Student Design Charrette 2011: Getting started

Our 3 teams have received their briefs and are hard at work assessing the site and coming up with their proposals. We have students and recent graduates from Architecture, Planning, Urban Design and Culture & Cognition.
Students at work at this year's Student Design Charrette at PLACE.

I spoke to Tara Florence of ARD Ciaran Mackel Architects, our partners in the Charrette, to explain the project brief:
PLACE Student Charrette 2011: North Street void (mp3)

We also discussed the potential for North Street and what the students might come up with in today's workshop.
PLACE Student Charrette 2011: What does North Street need? (mp3)

Stay tuned: the Charrette continues today, with pin-up at 4.45!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

UPCOMING EVENTS - Film screening, Photography tour and Architecture debate

Our colleagues at the Forum for Alternative Belfast and Belfast Exposed have some interesting events happening in the next few weeks...

Change of Address
The Spectrum Centre - Shankill Road
Thursday 22 April
£4.50 & £4.00

This documentary made in 1975 by BBC Northern Ireland follows the housing problems in Belfast and the proposed development of the Belfast Urban Motorway. The Belfast Urban Motorway was the name given to an ambitious scheme to build a continuous free-flow motorway around the city centre. For various reasons the scheme never went ahead.

The Documentary looks at the problems of the Divis flats development on the Falls Road and the difficulty of the living environment. It also looks at the depopulation of the Shankill Road as people moved to the outskirts of the city to housing schemes such as Springmartin. People talk about the difficulty of this move because of the poor conditions and isolation from their original communities.

Following the screening Jackie Redpath alongside Declan Hill and Mark Hackett (Forum for Alternative Belfast) will talk about the issues raised in the films.

To book your tickets online click here. (Tickets also on sale on the night).

A Special Event with the
10th Belfast Film Festival and Forum for Alternative Belfast


Sunday 25th April (exhibition runs 26 April - 23 May)

A site-specific exhibition of images sourced from the Belfast Exposed archive, placed in sites around the city centre. The images and their role as historical document are given a new context by positioning them in on-street advertising panels.

Meet at Belfast Exposed at 2pm before embarking on walking tour of the exhibition sites, led by one of the original photographers, who can give a unique first-hand account of each photograph.

Tour will finish up at The Dark Horse on Commercial Court for a drinks reception.

More info via


Architecture Debate at Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival
The Dark Horse
Friday 30 April 6.00pm
£3.00 - Buy Tickets here

"Belfast has had nothing of any architectural merit built in the past 50 years."
BBC Northern Ireland: Good Morning Ulster: 26/02/10: 8.38am.

Following comments by Environment Minister, Mr Edwin Poots that he was going to radically reform the Planning Service, BBC presenter Karen Patterson read the above anonymous text message.

Chaired by Finola Meredith, a group of leading architects, planners, community activists, academics and journalists will debate the subject. Ten well known Belfast Buildings will be presented. Both panel and audience will have the chance to vote.

More info via

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Architecture Debate @ CQAF; 30th April, 6pm

Architecture Debate
The Dark Horse
Friday 30 April 6.00pm
£3.00 (Tickets via

Part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival

"Belfast has had nothing of any architectural merit built in the past 50 years."
BBC Northern Ireland: Good Morning Ulster: 26/02/10: 8.38am.

Following comments by Environment Minister, Mr Edwin Poots that he was going to radically reform the Planning Service, BBC presenter Karen Patterson read the above anonymous text message.

Chaired by Finola Meredith, a group of leading architects, planners, community activists, academics and journalists will debate the subject. Ten well known Belfast Buildings will be presented. Both panel and audience will have the chance to vote.

Read more: The 11th Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival 2010

Friday, 12 March 2010

Belfast architecture special on Arts Extra last night

Above: The Forum for Alternative Belfast's map of the "missing city" of Belfast - you can pick up a copy at PLACE

Last night's Arts Extra on BBC Radio Ulster featured three Belfast voices in architecture and regeneration.

One of the major problems with the current model of development is that "vast swathes of our local community...are unable to raise adequate criticism", says Doug Elliott. He objects particularly to the redevelopment of the Ulster Museum, and says the design of Victoria Square has a similarly detrimental effect on the city to that of the Castle Court shopping centre.

Mark Hackett also has his sights set on the area around CastleCourt, with the reopening of Berry Street and the redevelopment of Bank Square two of the key items on the agenda for the Forum for Alternative Belfast.

Meanwhile, Patricia Freedman discusses the work of the Cathedral Quarter Steering Group and some of the issues raised at Tuesday's panel discussion.

BBC iPlayer: Arts Extra 11/03/2010 (available for 6 more days)

Read more:
- BD Online: Final bid to halt Ulster Museum extension plan
- Belfast City of Quarters Conference - 25th & 26th March
- Forum for Alternative Belfast

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Photos from yesterday's Panel Discussion

Photos above by Amberlea Neely.

Thanks to everyone who attended yesterday's Perspectives on Design in Cathedral Quarter event, which we thought was extremely positive. Thanks of course to all the speakers, and to Belfast Exposed's Exchange Mechanism, which made it happen.

A report on some of the issues raised is coming soon...