Titanic Quarter: ‘Building bridges’ can bring an irresistible momentum…

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.

  • Ceist

    “There is no traditional ‘speaker’s corner” – except the traditional speakers corner in the custom house square marked with a statue called ‘The Speaker’. Which coincidentally is situated in one of Belfast’s nicer areas of public space. Of course Custom House Square is joined in this part of the town by the Waterfront, Bank Sq even the front of city hall…

    I suspect the Titanic quarter will become more akin to the IFSC in Dublin, London’s Canary wharf or Liverpools Albert dock, some high value apartments occupied by those working in the business in the area, a few fancy bistros that close outside of office hours, a single shop and very very little else.

    Heck if they’re lucky they may have their own private security firm

  • Drumlins Rock

    Ceist is right about the speakers corner, but I think TQ will be a bit more successful as a public space because it has an unusual but diverse mix of public buildings already there, with the Oddessy, Belfast Met, PRONI, and Titanic Project in addition to Hotels, Offices, the Paint Shop and those apartments all.
    Mick, don’t be such a big whinger, of course the public transport needs improved but we could do with a bit less of the undermining of a project that is quite brave for a city of Belfasts size and history, give it a fair go and see if we can boost things here.

  • Canny See It Sur

    Well if its anything like the IFSC in Dublin or London’s Canary Wharf then the wealth that it creates for the city and the north as a whole would be fantastic and not to be sniffed at.

    I agree that the IFSC can be a bit of a ghost town after 6pm (and full of yuppie types) but it also has the local University and Colleges so its not all to be sniffed at. I think this Dockland Area in Belfast has the Tech as well so it could be beneficial in the same ways. Linking up education with placements in companies with high paid jobs would only be positive for Northern Ireland.

  • Mick Fealty

    DR,

    ‘Undermining”. Really? Ye cannae get tae it oan fut, is all I’m saying.

    Thanks for the heads up on Speaker’s Corner. I’ve heard of it being used formally in the past, but I was alluding to Belfast tradition in the sense that any corner would do in terms of how people organised themselves.

  • Drumlins Rock

    its a lovely wee dander Mick, from Customs House Sq go over the Weir, along the river front path and round the Oddessy, a wee bridge across the Abercorn basin would help, but think one is planned, still less than 1 mile or 20 minutes according to google, less distance than walking to Shaftsbury square from Customs House square. Plus I see Metro has a bus going out there roughly every half hour.

  • I think that James Larkin was among many who spoke on the Custom House Steps. But I think I recall my father saying it was mostly used by “preachers” of a regious kind rather than the political kind.
    The statue referred to by “Ceist” is I suppose a Man who was an Internet “blogger” of his day. The Blogosphere is the Speakers Corner de nos jours……..and the actual statue bears an uncanny resemblance to one of our leading bloggers.

    As to the Titanic Building…..I was hoping I would find it awful but even an old cynic like me finds it impressive. And with apologies to Pete St John I dont like the new glass cages that spring up along the quay.
    The problem with Belfast is that the River Lagan is a barrier in more than one sense. I had one relative that lived in East Belfast…..but mostly crossing that bridge only meant going to the old railway station for a day trip to Bangor.
    Very few from West Belfast crossed that Bridge and the city centre is all “in the west”.

    Basically Ceist is right. Communities cannot be “built”. They happen.
    Whether its Kirkby New Town or Milton Keynes.
    Whether its Antrim New Town or Craigavon.
    That part of the city will be just coffee shops, high rise developments for “singles” but no church or school.

  • Mick Fealty

    Built is I think the operative term. It signifies the commitment of resources, for good or I’ll.

  • I perhaps should have said “imposed”.

  • Mick Fealty

    Well, imposed upon whom, or what?

  • iluvni

    Should have built a football and rugby stadium in the site.

  • not to mention a GAA Stadium……but yes a Stadium would be better than a ghetto for yuppies.

  • Canny See It Sur

    Stadia seem to be the something that everyone wants these days. Surely they will end all economic woes and strife in the cities which build them. People down here in Derry constantly bang on about the economic sense in building a ‘multi-purpose’ all-seater stadium whilst conveniently ignoring the fact that the largest team in town rarely fills the Brandywell – we’re assured however that if someone builds it they will come to fill it…

    Sorry, off on a tangent there but I have to disagree that the area would be better with another sports stadium and not high growth industries…

  • jthree

    In some important respects it will be nothing like IFSC in that it is a massive funds admin/ treasury operation which benefits from a particularly advantageous tax regime. What Belfast gets is the compliance and IT support functions which are not so tax sensitive and not quite so well paid.

    From my experience the current car-dependence of TQ is an issue. To get to the signature project is a longish and boring walk from the city centre through the acres of windswept tarmac around the Odyssey.A new pedestrian footbidge should be a priority.

    The quarter itself is not particularly coherent yet – the signature project looks impressive but beyond that there is nothing else down there for tourists unless they want to see a technical college and a scrap yard. There are places where you can get quite close to the shipyard cranes but there is no interpretation – just a locked gate and a keep out sign.

  • DamienMcE

    “What Belfast gets is the compliance and IT support functions which are not so tax sensitive and not quite so well paid”.

    Never was a truer word said. Just one grant away from Bangalore or Poland. The science park however is doing some groovy stuff.

  • I have to agree with the above comments.
    The real test will be what the Titanic Quarter looks like at the time of the 200th Anniversary in 2112.

    What the Titanic Quarter loos like in 2012 is very different from how it looked in 1912 with a state of the art shipbuilding industry.
    The 2012 version already looks to be an industrial centre which is already in decline.
    When it is all knocked down and turned into something else for 2112, thats the true test.

    Rather like that strange looking Halifax Call Centre place where the Old Gasworks used to be……..
    20th and 21st centuries very different industries.
    It is a scary thought what will be there in the next century.

    We should really just build portakabins.

  • alex gray

    Go to http://www.titanicpigeonforge.com/ – this is a populist Titanic attraction with a big chunk of the liner reconstructed. The luvvies would call it plastic tourism but isn’t plastic tourism what we want – – of the credit card variety. The signature building is a white elephant – nothing of interest to tourists. Just another museum with few artefacts. Pigeon Forge would show them how to do it and pull in the punters.