The iconic Titanic Belfast building is located on Queen’s Island, used for many years by the shipbuilders Harland and Wolff, who built huge slipways and graving docks to accommodate the simultaneous construction of the ships Olympic and Titanic. The decline of shipbuilding in Belfast left much of the area derelict. Most of the disused structures on the island were demolished, however a number of heritage features were given listed status, including the Olympic and Titanic slipways and graving docks, as well as the iconic bright yellow Samson and Goliath cranes. A graving dock, otherwise known as a dry dock, is a facility where people can drift ships in and impel water away to show the complete structure of the ship for maintenance and service.

Eric Kuhne and Associates were commissioned as concept architects, with Todd Architects appointed as lead consultants. The building’s design is intended to reflect Belfast’s history of ship-making and the industrial legacy bequeathed by Harland & Wolff. The stunningly angular form mimics the prows of the ships that were built here, with the main “prow” angled down the middle of the Titanic and Olympic slipways, pointing towards the Lagan River. Most of the building’s façade is clad in 3,000 individual silver anodised aluminium shards, which change colour as you walk around the building. Titanic Belfast stands 126 feet high, the same height as Titanic‘s hull. This building was intended to have the same effect on Belfast as Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum had on Bilbao. The projections for the first year of opening were for 425,000 visitors, of which 130,000 – 165,000 would be from outside Northern Ireland. As it turned out 807,340 people visited, with just over 471,000 of those visitors coming from outside the province.

Excerpt from my next book on Travels in Northern Ireland and Scotland