“we had a project meeting yesterday and we are still on target”

As the BBC report points out in its opening lines, despite closing to the public 7 months ago no actual work has been done on the Ulster Museum’s planned renovation. They claim to be still on schedule to re-open in spring/early summer of 2009. Objectors to the proposed work include the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society who, as noted previously, have pointed to the Museum’s listed building status and, in particular, to the proposal to enclose the museum’s cantilevered concrete canopy with glass. Today they and the Museum have put their opposing views to the Belfast City Council planning committee. No word on the committee’s descision but it’s worth noting the BBC report’s last line – “The council planning committee can reject the museum’s plans, but it has no power to overrule the Planning Service.” Planning Service, seemingly, have already approved the Museum’s plans..

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  • miss fitz

    Just a note on this. I had heard it was going to take a significant amount of time to properly and appropriately remove all of the artefacts from both display and storage in the museum. By all accounts, there are enormous amounts of work in storage, and moving them is not quite a case of phoning rent-a-merc and shoving it all in the back.

    I find it quite believable that 6 or 10 months would be taken up in stipping the museum, so I am not quite sure what the fuss is about on this one.

  • Pete Baker

    miss fitz

    The lack of work done in the seven months was more of an aside.. after all, full official approval for that work doesn’t seem to have gone through completely.. yet. And, as stated, they’re still on target for that 2009 date.

    It’s the Museum’s proposed renovation that’s the issue for the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society.

  • miss fitz


    You mention this 7-month issue in the first line of your piece, so forgive me for not picking up on the fact that its an aside. This was covered in the news this evening as well, and it just seems like one more instance of half the story being told again.

    No actual work can be done until the space is prepared and stripped and that is going on apace I believe. So, saying NO WORK has been done is slightly inaccurate. Work is being done, but none of the reconstruction or new build can be undertaken

  • Pete Baker

    Well, that’s probably my fault in not being clearer on what actual work I was referring to.

    The “actual work.. on the Ulster Museum’s planned renovation” was intended to refer to the actual renovation.. not the preparations for renovation.

    As noted, the plans have yet to officially clear all the approval stages and are being vigorously opposed.. at least in some quarters.

  • Rubicon

    Miss Fitz raises a legitimate point regarding the conservation of the Museum’s collection. Had she not raised it I might be doing my Victor Meldrew impression. It’d not have been something I’d have thought of.

    What’s wrong with:

    1. Consider plans for renovation
    2. Put plans out to consultation
    3. Consider consultation responses and Agree plans
    4. Seek planning permission
    5. Get planning permission (it normally allows several years before a re-application is required)
    6. Make plans for renovations – including conservation of collection
    7. Get work done

    Now – I know this might seem a little simple – but I can’t see much wrong with it. Too logical perhaps? Maybe it doesn’t include allowance for artistic expression?

    Is this where the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society come in? It normally makes reasonable points and does a lot of good work. In this case, I’d like to know why they object to replacing a heap of concrete with glass. Their statement that it’s “one of the glories of Modernism in Ulster” is a bit vague – and far from convincing. It’s the kind of argument that keeps urban eyesores in place. In fact, I’m surprised the museum has a listed building status. Inside has merit – but outside … it appears ugly to me. A glass dome may improve it.

    As for Pete’s point that the Planning Service holds sway against our local councillors – thank God for it! Watch this space – returning devolution will see many planning regulations relaxed.

    When Jim Wells heard the DUP were taking the Environment ministry he was heard saying “the environment’s f*cked!”. I’d never heard of Jim swearing before …

  • Pete Baker
  • jaffa

    “Inside has merit – but outside … it appears ugly to me. A glass dome may improve it.”

    What are we doing to our city?

    Big pink portakabin stuck on the Opera House (I could live with the building if it wasn’t full of Starbucks furniture), big spike in the cathedral, conservatory on the museum, knock down all the Edwardian houses and build flats. It’s like some sort of ongoing architectural boob-job. Do we really dislike ourselves this much?

    We don’t deserve our inheritance.

  • missfitz

    I have to admit, I have a pretty open mind about these things in general and I can live with the antenna on the church and even the idea of a Louvre-like glass front on the Museum. Thats progress.

    But I saw the extension to the Opera House the other day, and frankly its crap. It isnt wearing well, and rust is beginning to seep down the front of the building. The side hasnt been painted at all, so you have this totally incongrous pink and green confection at odss with the old building, with its arse exposed and unadorned for the world to see.

    I was in Berlin last year, and to be honest, its like something the government there are pulling down out of shame and embarrassment. I dont think it has any redeeming features.

  • missfitz

    And while I’m at it….

    I had a long drive yesterday, and the destruction of old, beautiful buildings to make way for development is not confined to Belfast. In Ballynahinch, 2 lovely old buildings on the way in from Seaforde are for sale ‘for development purposes.’ I dont know the history, but one looks like a rectory, and the other appeared Georgian in type. I saw the same thing in Strabane, with 2 very fine family homes for sale with OPP for a large development.

    The only positive thing I noted is what is hopefully beyond our reach. I drove through the Sperrins, on tiny widning back roads (OK, fine, I was lost) and I just revelled in the beauty of the area. Its mainly unspoilt and untouched, and it was breathtaking. Its not a road I was familiar with (Cookstown, Orritor to Gortin and Strabane), but for anyone who fancies a spin that will take your breath away, this is it.