Victoria Square
Victoria Square is the newest and most ambitious redevelopment project to emerge from the wide range of initiatives undertaken in recent years building on Northern Ireland’s status as an economically vibrant, must-see destination. From Victoria Square’s inception in 1998 (with client Multi Development and architects T+T Design) through to its completion a decade later, it has been recognised as a key part of Belfast’s urban regeneration. One of its main contributions, and fundamental to its selection in a competitive process against two other sites, was its ambition to create a stronger link with Belfast’s river frontage, in itself an important redevelopment site. The aim was to build an entire high quality urban quarter which stitches itself in to the existing city fabric through the provision of new multi-level pedestrian streets creating an exciting mixed-use facility supporting a 24 hour economy. In doing so, it would address the significant under provision of retail space in the city, estimated at some 90,000m². Victoria Square encompasses 75,000m² of retail space, including the flagship House of Fraser department store, together with a two-level food court, a restaurant terrace, 106 new city centre apartments, and an eight screen Odeon cinema. This provides a rich mixture of approximately 135,250m² new and diverse space for Belfast city centre. In contrast to the enclosed mall model that is so prevalent in UK and American cities, Victoria Square was developed as an open streetscape model responding to the existing urban grain and in which every facet of the footprint connects with the city, establishing new relationships between previously disjointed areas of the public realm. The architecture successfully integrates itself with the surrounding streets using a variety of materials to complement the proportion and massing of the building elements which in turn emanate from city plot sizes. The chosen palette including stone, brick, zinc and copper, evolved from a considered analysis of Belfast’s existing streetscape, reflecting its industrial and civic heritage. The showpiece of the project is the 37m diameter glass dome which sits on a 24m high circular stone colonnade, enclosing a vast space which is the true heart of the project. The dome space serves as a circulation node, dramatised by a series of floating platforms, which link all levels and streets by lift, stairs and escalators. This is an intentional set piece providing the sense of theatre demanded by such projects and has already become an iconic image on Belfast’s skyline, acting as a potent symbol of Belfast’s positive change. As one of the highest publicly accessible vantage points in the city, it attracts local people and visitors with its panoramic views of the city and mountains beyond. The colonnaded pedestrian streets are sheltered by an oversailing glass canopy at high level. Crucially this preserves the feeling and characteristics of an open street created from robust and finely detailed construction. This also responds well to the critical environmental imperative by saving a huge amount of energy on air-conditioning and heating. There are two ground floor levels and two upper levels, the highest of which links the cinemas and food offer in a complete upper street. Victoria Square provides 1000 underground car parking spaces over two levels, in an arrangement that is universally accessible and user-friendly with good vertical circulation links and generous provision for disabled parking. All parking is consciously concealed in the basement avoiding the often disastrous urban problem of accommodating unsightly multi-storey car park façades. People can ascend directly from the car parks into the heart of the scheme or the residential cores, and traffic is kept separate from the pedestrian realm, preventing the need for vehicle cross-over at the car park’s access and egress points. In addition to its innovative urban response, the project benefited from being the product of a full BDP interdisciplinary team approach. This ensured careful consideration of environmental and servicing criteria, and significant efficiencies were offered in terms of energy usage and distribution through this strategy, benefiting both client and end user. Such is the integration of this scheme into the existing fabric that one marvels at how unobtrusive it really is, arguably a true measure of success for any urban regeneration project. KEY DATA • Client: Multi Development UK Ltd, T+T Design • BDP Professions : Architect, Civil & Structural Engineer, Mechanical & Electrical Engineer, Planner, Interior Designer, Landscape Architect, Acoustic Consultant, Graphic Designer • Main Contractor: FGA - joint venture of Farrans and Gilbert-Ash • Sub-Contractors: Vaughan Engineering Services Ltd, JBE Building Services Ltd • Construction cost: £160m • Project value: £400m


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