Belfast Telegraph

Architecture students' grand designs for shopping complex

By Clare Weir

Small units for independent retailers, an amphitheatre, a catwalk, a children's play area, creche and a bowling alley could be coming to the basement unit at Belfast's Victoria Square shopping complex thanks to the designs of Northern Ireland architecture students.

The massive unit, located below the Ann Street entrance to the centre, is currently unoccupied and owners, Commerz Real, created a 'Reface the Base' competition, inviting students to submit plans as to how to use the space.

After a lengthy judging process, the plan submitted by University of Ulster architecture students Sarah Mitchell, William Brewster and Carrie Gillespie was deemed the winner and officials at Commerz Real were so impressed that they have agreed to carry out a feasibility study on the design proposal, which could potentially see the project brought to fruition in Victoria Square.

In addition to the students' designs being considered for implementation, the winning designs will feature in a leading UK professional architect journal and students received gift vouchers.

Jim Berry, professor in Urban Planning and Property Development, University of Ulster, said the competition had been a great showcase for architectural talent.

"This has given students a fantastic platform to showcase their creative abilities, by coming up with innovative ideas which could potentially enhance the role and function of Belfast city centre as a retail, business, cultural and entertainment hub," he said.

"It is also an excellent example of how our students have been able to meet the expectations of such a high profile company as Commerz Real."