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Belfast embraces design as ship-building dwindles

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Uncertainty over the future of ship-building in Belfast last week looked set to trigger a spate of new architectural commissions to redevelop sites left vacant by the dwindling industry.

The property development arm of struggling local ship-builder Harland and Wolff last week announced a plan to build a science park, marina and residential complex on a disused 40ha riverside site made famous as the shipyard of the Titanic. The move came after workers were placed on 90-day redundancy notice as the shipyard failed to secure a commission to build a successor to the Cunard's QE2 cruise liner.

The development is being managed by the Belfast Harbour Commission and Harland and Wolff. Plans are at an early stage, but officials say that competitions for buildings on the historic area look certain to follow.

Elsewhere harbourside regeneration has already started. It was announced last week that Norwegian architect Neils Torp has won the international competition to design a £12 million office block for Belfast's waterfront.

The winning 6000m2 building, dubbed The Soloist (pictured above), will stand alongside the circular Robinson & McIlwaine-designed Waterfront Hall as part of the regeneration of the Lanyon Place site on the banks of the Lagan. The other shortlisted architects in the Royal Society of Ulster Architects competition were Behnisch, Behnisch and Partner (Germany), Henning Larsen (Denmark) and Henke & Schreieck (Austria).

'The Titanic development along with a 9ha site opposite the Waterfront Hall could provide opportunities for new competitions, ' Belfast City spokesman Paul McErlean said. 'The Soloist is just the beginning.' He added that the runner-up scheme from Behnisch, Behnisch and Partner could be erected on another harbourside site.

Architect at Neils, Torp Harald, Lone said that the Soloist building would not attempt to upstage its neighbouring concert hall.

'Our brief was to bring forward a design concept which would complement and enhance the Belfast waterfront while creating a new landmark building in its own right, ' Lone said. 'The Waterfront Hall is the most prominent building in the area and shall remain so.'

Lanyon Place will be a multi-occupancy office development with the ground floor designated for public use.

It is based on a series of slender units which form a fanshape allowing clear sight lines through the building.

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