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McGonigle McGrath wins go-ahead for Belfast hotel

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McGonigle McGrath has won planning for this hotel in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter 


The scheme will reuse and extend the recently listed former War Memorial Building in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter creating a hotel with conference and leisure facilities.

Designed by J. Michael Bowley, the modernist War Memorial Building was built between 1959 and 1961.

McGonigle McGrath’s project will restore the building’s external fabric including its stone framework and brick and slate panelling, while new windows and screens will be added in bronze and a new concrete canopy created to signal the entrance.

An extension will be built in grey brick and concrete which repeat the rhythms of the existing scheme and a brick walled courtyard will be created at the centre of the two buildings.

Hotel, Belfast by McGonigle McGrath

Hotel, Belfast by McGonigle McGrath

Ground Floor Plan

Hotel, Belfast by McGonigle McGrath

Hotel, Belfast by McGonigle McGrath


Architect’s view 

The building lies close to the historic core of Belfast, set amid the pattern of passageways which ran from High Street, formerly the quayside of the River Farset, to the surrounding densely packed areas of the city. The northern border of the site is formed by Sugarhouse Entry, named after the sugar refinery erected on the site in the late 17th century.

The original refinery was destroyed by fire in 1785 and was replaced by a new one by the Belfast Sugar House Company, which thrived until around 1810. It was during this period that the entry became home to a number of inns including ‘Dr Franklin’s’ in which the Society of United Irishmen was incubated under the name of the ‘Muddlers’ Club’.

Following the demise of the sugar refinery, the Queen Anne hotel occupied the site, and with the presence of further hostelries the entry became progressively more raucous. All of this was lost during the Belfast Blitz, a massive bombing raid carried out by the German Luftwaffe in 1941, in which many parts of the city were obliterated. 

The new building is derived from the original, emphasising it’s rhythm and proportion, but executed in grey brick with concrete expression of floor edge, creating a simple repeated pattern of voids. Where these voids light bedrooms, decorated bronze panels provide the requisite privacy. The use of brick piers as the expression of the vertical structure at once implies a subservience to the original building but also acknowledges the tradition of structural brick warehouses in Belfast, and references the spirit of the modern movement, handsomely retained in the existing building.

Hotel, Belfast by McGonigle McGrath

Hotel, Belfast by McGonigle McGrath


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Readers' comments (1)

  • Great news for MGMG - and great news for N Ireland's architects, students of architecture and for Belfast - it's a pleasure to observe this serious, good practice evolving and growing in stature and contribution to the NI culture of architecture. Alan Jones RIBA

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