Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Revealed: Belfast’s most beautiful buildings

Next time you walk past Belfast’s own leaning tower take note of the patchwork red colours and the two-tone crowned lions which surround it.

Dawson scales Queen’s University building for the launch of Stone by Stone

The iconic Albert Memorial clock tower, known for its eclectic mix of Gothic styles and distinct slant, has stood in Queen’s Square since the 1800s making its mark in history. Its light and dark red stones tell the story of some of the most fantastic buildings in Northern Ireland today.

The clock tower, along with Belfast City Hall, Stormont and Queen’s University are among the beautiful buildings across the province which have been examined in the new book Stone by Stone. Leading experts in architecture and geology have joined forces to explore the natural resources used to build some of Northern Ireland’s most renowned landmarks.

In Victorian times, the skyline of Belfast was dominated by beautiful red sandstone buildings such as the Albert Memorial and Crescent Arts Centre. Buildings made from Scrabo sandstone sprung up across the city to cope with a growing population, but it was discovered this local stone could not stand the test of time.

The beautiful sandstone buildings of Belfast were damaged by the sea, air and many buildings across the province were left in very poor condition by the early 1900s. The supply of Scrabo sandstone ran out but as transport links improved sandstone from the south of England was brought over to repair and restore iconic structures such as the Albert Memorial, giving it the patchwork red we see today.

Stone By Stone is the result of a collaboration between architects from Consarc Design Group, Stone Conservation Services and the Weathering Research Group of Queen’s University, Belfast.

The book combines guidance from the scientific side with practical conservation on how the general public can help maintain some of the country’s most historical buildings.

The team behind the research are Dawson Stelfox, Joanne Curran and John Savage from Consarc Design Group and Professor Bernard Smith and Dr Patricia Warke from Queen’s University, Belfast. Joanne Curran said the changes in climate have had a big impact on the stone structures mentioned in the book.

The book also looks at Belfast City Hall as an example of the magnificent building work which took place when Belfast was at the height of its ship-building career.

Portland limestone, used to build some of the most impressive buildings in London, was shipped over from the south of England to build the City Hall and Parliament Buildings at Stormont.

Dr Patricia Warke, co-author and a lecturer at Queen’s University, said: “We wanted to write something in an accessible format to tell people about the fantastic buildings which make up Northern Ireland.”

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