The Waterfront Hall: Now you see it and well now you really can’t anymore

Mick did a post on the development of new conference facilities at The Waterfront Hall in January 2014 when there was some outcry about how it would impact on the view of hall from the other side of the River Lagan.

Today a picture by local arts man about town, Adam Turkington caused a bit of a stir on social media as he took these pictures of how the site is progressing with a before and after;


So what do you make of the development, should we sacrifice a view for improved conference facilities for the city?

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  • Dan

    What a mess.
    Almost as ugly as that monstrosity out the front of the Hall too.

  • mickfealty

    Really, I do understand the financial burden the building was imposing on the city council, but honestly, this is, I don’t know how to put it, cultural vandalism.

  • Ernekid

    What were they thinking?

  • mickfealty

    Thing is we knew what they were planning to do, and no one seems to have had the will, the energy or the wherewithal to tell them to think twice.

    Though it also has to be said that by the time they’d worked out the business case for the hall wasn’t working they’d already crammed all available spaces for a conference centre with Kellogg’s boxes of all manner size and shape.

  • Zig70

    The planners should be lashed. It’s an eyesore.

  • Mister_Joe

    Looks like a trailer (caravan to yousens).

  • Mister_Joe

    They weren’t.

  • David Crookes

    Why are the planning authorities so pernickety about little bits of domestic architecture when they are prepared to allow a lunatic abomination like this?

    The Mighty Ones have displayed neither competence, nor rectitude, nor common sense.

    How can we trust authorities who approve of architectural trailer-trash?

    The new building is so vulgar, ugly, and stupid that it could have been designed by a group of MLAs.

    It’s hard to believe that Belfast used to be known as the Athens of Ireland.

  • chrisjones2

    Yes …and why was it such a burden? Because it was mismanaged. And what will happen with this? If will be mismanaged and will cost much more

  • Thomas Girvan

    So how long will it be up for?

  • hurdy gurdy man

    I’ve never read anything about this that would suggest it’s temporary – so I would assume that it’s permanent.

  • notimetoshine

    Cultural vandalism? The waterfront hall wasn’t exactly a wonderous and inspiring piece of architecture to begin with. A pretty bog standard piece of 90s corporate architecture. OK the best Belfast had seen in many years but still. The upgrade is OK, just a a rather uninspired update of of the bog standard bargain basement corporate architecture that Belfast seems to have been filled with since the late 90s. Not terribly exciting but not wholly unpleasant and certainly not cultural vandalism.

    I’d also point out that those two photographs are rather misleading with a different view of the sight and different lighting.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Is there any Architectural Practices left in Belfast ? or are they just a postal box for the Global Corporations in New York – London – Shanghai to deliver their Patent Rights Rubic Cube Boxes ?

  • Thomas Girvan

    It is permanent ok, not exactly Sydney Opera House.

  • mickfealty

    It’s a question of capacity for action independent of patronage/funding, and culture of complacency I’d say.

    We pride ourselves on our city’s long term culture of political engagement, but we are in desperate need of a ‘belief updating’ in that regard.

    It’s not a matter of civic pride as such, but civic engagement in defending our share public goods, not just the sectional ones.

  • OK so I have some points of order on the financial burden argument.
    – This £2m figure as far as I know was made up largely of two things. The mortgage of £1.4m a year and rates of £0.6. I’m not sure how long was left on the mortgage but the target internally was always to be at this £2m point so that when the mortgage was paid up the difference would be rates which would go back to BCC. The point was that eventually it would become a zero sum.
    – The business plan is a geg.
    – It’s about what’s important. If the building was something that people could see benefit from then the £2m isn’t that big a deal. Compare it with the financial burden of the zoo for example which is well over £10m from memory. Over the last five years ago all the community development work has stopped. The only thing that matters is conference and the UO. You could even say that view was the last thing left for most of us.
    So in short imo, the financial burden argument is a red herring. This was about the ego of a couple of Snr Managers in BCC. It’s about the personalities in Council not the rates payer.

  • chrisjones2

    Well in all future planning it will be worse as Councillors will have the veto

  • Peter Moore

    In answer to an earlier question, there are some think-tanks (e.g., PLACE and Forum for Alternative Belfast) in architecture, but they are pressure groups at best. In my experience a consultation is no such thing, it is a foregone conclusion and a method of informing people of what is to come, rather than a genuine need or desire for their opinions.

    The truth is that planning doesn’t seem to apply when capital works are undertaken. Having said that, look at the extension to the Ulster Museum…is this to be a similar type of architectural meld?

    Place website:
    Forum for Alternative Belfast:

  • kensei

    Just did a mini tour of Australia for my honeymoon, and was thinking how much we’d benefit from some nice architecture and spaces with interesting art. It’s not like the Waterfront was a particular nice building, but this is actually offensive.

  • The Waterfront is of its time – it was like a testament to faith in the peace process and that Northern Ireland could have nice things. The huge expanse of glass was inspirational and the building is genuinely good inside. This ghastly monstrosity is like a shroud – it’s reminiscent of the sorts of tall fences they used to have to put up around the Europa every time it ‘had manners put on it’ by the men with woolly faces. It’s horrid, it looks nasty and it’s entirely in keeping with what NI is becoming.

  • Cosmo

    Follow the money….By definition Property Developers and Builders make their money from just uhhh building stuff, and so any old rationale will do, as a cover story. Oh, yes… rejuvenation, that’s a grand one.
    (Always wondered how NI conference investment can ever pay off, with NI”s limited air-links. Surely that’s whats needed sorted/invested in/subsidised first.)
    The architect for Titanic Building was best known for building a shopping centre. And despite its grand cost of c:£94m plus, it would be two a penny in Dubai. And still no essential public transport links to the area.
    Who’s the ‘architect’ for this one? Ah well, perhaps they are trying to make it look like one of those cruise ships?

  • Bedhead1157

    I have fond memories of the Waterfront, and it was indeed a building of it’s time, not “beautiful” but a symbol that buildings in Belfast could be built without wondering how it withstood a bomb. This new extension looks bloody awful, it’s like something a kid playing with sticklebricks would build, coupled to the fact that the front of the building has another overgrown greenhouse plonked in front of it, you have to wonder what is going on with Belfast planners.

    It won’t make much difference to folk’s everyday lives, but it really does look horrible, Soviet era architecture on the Lagan.

  • chrisjones2

    So with this huge extension will the caterers finally manage the huge logistic problem of bringing


    all together in the same bar at the same time?

    If so, it will be the first time in 20 years. Still, we live in hope

  • pulling the wool over our eyes

    What about the people that designed it i.e. the architects?

  • Bedhead1157

    More like a 1970’s car ferry.

  • chrisjones2

    ….on the Yangtze!!!

  • chrisjones2

    I like to think Belfast will be a peaceful, thriving, integrated, multi cultural city where all is love and harmony

    But ……………………

  • chrisjones2

    Sadly it depends if the Dissers really get going …………….

  • chrisjones2

    Not fair …..there is a Shoppa Bus …..sometimes

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    It’s that lack of integrated thinking that NI excels in. Silo mentalities rule here and our complacent ant-curious media does little to challenge it.

  • Cosmo

    I’m bemused that we just seem to be sitting back and letting the Belfast Harbour Area and Waterfront be ‘sold off’ and ‘developed’ – which is public and ours – without an indignant peep. Our ‘civil servants’ are in the grip of group think, timid, or worse, and the developers are unfettered and laughing all the way to the bank. Read an interesting interview in last Saturday’s FT Mariana Mazzucato, Prof Economics of Innovation at Univ of Sussex….she says it is with a brave public sector that real innovation stems.
    In current media model, I suppose the small pond of NI cannot sustain quality investigative journalism. The good ones, move on.

  • Sherdy

    Did somebody raise the Nomadic up on stilts?

  • Virginia


  • Virginia

    “Northern Ireland could have nice things” yours is the line the year! Brilliant, you win at Monopoly, pass go and collect 2000£

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “Who’s the architect for this one?” The same one who designed the Titanic Building ! – and your point about trying to make it look like one of those criuse ships ain’t far off the concept ! The Ship Circle Port Holes have to be introduced yet along the side off the building !

  • Moochin Photoman

    The viewpoint of the photograph is more or less the same perhaps 10 feet to the right would give you the original view. But it makes no odds the original building has been sacrificed in the name of progress and developers profit in particular the monstrosity in front of the Waterfront built by Ewarts.

  • Cosmo

    Hmmm…Some portholes would improve the rectangulari-ness of the thing. And a proop deck, and dare I say it, a flagpole at one end could be jaunty at least.
    Is it seriously the Titanic architect – I recall a pic of him ‘celebrating’ in BT, where he was the spit of Zero Mostel in The Producers!

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Yes – I believe it is Todd Architects who funny enough sit on the 2nd Floor in the Titanic Quarter !

  • Cosmo

    So are we talking architect, Texan Eric Kuhne – and are we talking Harcourt Dev etc etc, as the builders?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    McLaughlin & Harvey are the Builders for the Waterfront Extension, not sure who Todds would have used as their principal architect !

  • Cosmo

    Ok, yes see now… this link shows the relationship between Eric Kuhne/ Civic Arts…and Todds, for the Titanic design….everyone claiming their lead as you may well do in the feeding frenzy of a £97m building – ultimately evaluated by Kieran Donnelly audit, as an overpriced tourist attraction.

  • Lorcs1

    Pity they couldn’t have used the Maysfield site for a conference centre, instead of flogging it to raise a few quid.

  • Cosmo

    Surely, where there is a long view of it, the harmonious shape of a building’s silhouette in relationship to what is around, is as important as the cladding material even if it does light up glittery at night for a photo?. ( always a bit of a cheap trick, I think.)
    Do you think this one will win a prize ?

  • Dulcie

    Any news on the well used cycle route they blocked off to build this thing? Is that gone forever? We were told it would be shut for a couple of years during the construction but I can’t tell if it’s in the ‘after’ picture.