A 12-month competition, led by Belfast City Council and supported by RIBA, has culminated with the appointment of an integrated design team for Belfast Stories – a unique destination set to open by 2029, unlocking almost 100 years of heritage at the 1931 Art Deco Bank of Ireland site on Royal Avenue.
The architectural appointment is a partnership between Oslo-based, Snøhetta, and Belfast-based TODD Architects.
They will lead on design, supported by a team of specialists, whilst property and construction consultancy, Gleeds, has been appointed to oversee project management and design assurance.
The companies have proven experience in delivering major cultural and public realm projects, and a track record of creating sustainable places to benefit locals and visitors. They were selected based on their responses to the opportunity presented by the Belfast Stories project.
As a flagship project of the £850 million Belfast Region City Deal, the appointed consortium will see the 5,000m² site transformed into a state-of-the-art, interactive, and immersive visitor experience that celebrates the stories of Belfast and provides vibrant social spaces for everyone to enjoy.
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Ryan Murphy, said, “Appointing a design team is a significant milestone and we’re grateful to all those involved in the international design competition for supporting us to attract the highest calibre of talent to match the ambition we have for this unique destination.
“Belfast Stories will transform a much-loved heritage site and continue the regeneration of this part of the city centre, as well as becoming a vibrant place for people from Belfast and further afield to come together and share in the unique character of this place and its people.
“We look forward to inviting residents to support this unique opportunity as the appointed team determine a design that reflects local contributions.”
Whilst work on the design is yet to start, it is intended that the site will become the city’s greatest example of a climate resilient building, supporting Belfast’s position as a Top 10 globally sustainable city, according to the 2022 Global Destinations Sustainability Index.
Robert Greenwood, Partner and Director at Snøhetta, said: “We are delighted to be appointed alongside TODD Architects and Gleeds to bring this truly transformative landmark project to life.
“We recognise the building and its adjacent site have the potential to become a bold architectural statement that Belfast can be proud of. We share in Belfast City Council’s vision and collectively offer the insight and experience to create a space that will improve the vibrancy and aesthetic of this part of the city, but we also recognise how excellent architecture can deliver community benefits and have lasting cultural impact.”
Tourism NI’s Chief Executive Officer, John McGrillen, said: “The project has the potential to revitalise the city centre and contribute to the ongoing transformation of the city”.
He added: “Belfast is the gateway to the region – attracting people to this authentic and vibrant city is essential to the growth of the tourism industry across Northern Ireland. We are a nation of storytellers and storytelling is at the core of our experience brand as it allows us to share our Giant Spirit with the many visitors who come here.
“Belfast Stories aims to showcase this trait and to create a world class attraction which will allow visitors to explore and understand Belfast and Northern Ireland through our people’s lived experiences.”
The integrated design team will be tasked with bringing Belfast Stories to life as a landmark destination in Belfast including shared spaces for meeting, socialising and learning that will complement the experience.
Belfast Stories will also become the focal point for the burgeoning screen industry, a base for film-related organisations, and a home for Northern Ireland Screen’s digital film archive.
Richard Williams, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Screen believes screen is at the core of what Belfast Stories can offer. He said: “It’s wonderful that the appointed design team understands how important it is that Belfast Stories prioritises the power of screen.
“The story of Belfast is complex, multi-faceted and compelling, but crucially, it is still being written, so to have a dedicated, dynamic space to explore authentic local stories, and develop the industry’s skills at the same time, offers the region the opportunity to continue to build its legacy in screen.”
Belfast Stories will be launching a Stories Network early in 2024.
This will be an open forum for anyone to attend to find out more about the project and meet the design team.
For more information visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/belfaststories or @belfast_stories on Instagram and @Belfaststories on Facebook.