I don’t know if impressive is the right word for the new keynote building for the Titanic quarter, but it is certainly striking especially when the mid winter sun strikes it at a certain angle. It’s a bold project, to press into what was once the preserve of industry and the armed forces with a new era of largely, but not entirely, publicly funded building.
It will say much about its success or failure as to how well Belfast takes to the area to its heart. After generations of trouble, Belfast is short of genuinely public space. There is no traditional ‘speaker’s corner’ (*see comment below), because in the hair trigger days of the troubles any corner could brigaded into some social action.
Belfast long took the harbour area for granted both in its industrial heyday, either because it was impossible to get a job there, or it was taken as read that it would provide prosperity for generations. There are no such guarantees these days.
It is, at least, some kind of commitment to a future, however insecure it might be. As Peter Apsden notes of an event which had Martin and Peter chuckling in the Royal Palace at Kensington:
Culture doesn’t bring peace, because it is too weak in the face of intransigent political enmity. But once bridges are built, it can provide an irresistible momentum.
In the meantime, if the planners do re-romance Belfast with its own dockside they could do worse than put in a decent public transport system. Currently the only practical way of getting there is by cleaving to Northern Ireland’s singular obsession with the car.