December 03 2013

It’s History, But Not Preserved: The Demolition of The University of Ulster, Belfast

What should happen to worn out buildings? Should they be refurbished or demolished to make way for a new design? Questions like these often come up in situations of regeneration, such as in Belfast with the redevelopment of University of Ulster.

The University of Ulster is currently situated in Belfast, but there are also campuses in Jordanstown, Coleraine, and Magee, each with different facilities to accommodate different courses. The plan for the regeneration is to enlarge the Belfast Campus, and relocate most of the near Jordanstowns students to this new campus.

1932 Building that once Housed University of Ulster, Belfast, IrelandPhotograph of the Old University of Ulster

Previously, the Belfast campus acquired a site that was half built in the 1990s, with the remainder (pictured above) built in 1932 by Samuel Stevenson. The 1950′s unit has become worn and inefficient, so in 2009 plans were revealed to demolish and replace them with a “landmark.”

Current Demolition State of University of Ulster, Belfast, IrelandPhotograph of the current demolition state of the University

The Cathedral Quarter, in which the University of Ulster Belfast Campus is situated, is known for both it’s cultural heritage and it’s dense urban landscape. The height of the buildings situated in Cathedral Quarter are commonly known for being low in comparison to the rest of Belfast, except for the main landmark of St Anne’s Cathedral (reaching sixty meters into the skyline). Against this contextual importance, the plans for the regeneration of the Belfast Campus are inconsiderate of the heights of the area.

Artist Impression of the Regeneration of the University of Ulster, Belfast Campus, Belfast, IrelandPhotograph of Artist Impression from Donegall Street
with St Anne’s Cathedral to the right of the image

As can be seen in the artist impression above, the new addition to the University is to tower into the streetscape and create a landmark that reflects the location of the University. Some argue that the height is considerate due to the choice of materials for the higher levels, creating a heavily glazed unit to blend into the skies. Others argue that plans should have been more efficient – and the height should have been reduced – in consideration of its context.

The regeneration is planned to be completed in 2018 and would bring 14,000 more students into the area. Evidently the regeneration will provide a more bustling city; but some say this could have been achieved with the refurbishment of the old building.

Should we clear sites entirely to build new contemporary buildings or to retain and refurbish at least a partial element of the building that once stood?

Credits: Images by James Foskett and linked to source. Data linked to sources.

James Foskett

James Foskett is currently in his last year of Architecture undergraduate study at Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland. Born in Devon, England, he has always had a passion for the Built Environment and therefore is planning on finishing his Architectural education by doing an MArch and possibly a Phd. Inspired by travel, his main interests are contextual designs that contribute greatly to the people that use them. From an Environmental Science background, he is also interested in sustainability and the effects of the life cycle of a building upon it's surroundings.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 at 9:59 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Land Use. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


One Response to “It’s History, But Not Preserved: The Demolition of The University of Ulster, Belfast”

  1. Paul Says:

    Buildings should be recycled as often as possible. Great article.

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