Belfast Telegraph

Grand Designs - Northern Ireland students challenged to design 40,000sq ft retail space

A group of Northern Irish students have been given a unique opportunity to submit design proposals for the use of a prime 40,000 square feet retail unit in NI’s largest shopping centre.

The massive basement unit, located below the Anne Street entrance into Victoria Square, Belfast, is currently unoccupied and owners, Commerz Real, feel the next generation of Northern Ireland’s architects may hold the key as to how best to use the space.

The ‘Reface the Base’ student design competition has been engineered by Commerz Real in partnership with the University of Ulster and is open to enterprising students studying in the Faculty of Art, Design and the Built Environment at the University of Ulster. Rapport Architects will act in a project manager capacity for the competition.

Working either individually or in small interdisciplinary groups, students will undertake the competition over the summer period and bring flair, innovation and creativity to the design of an interesting space in the basement of the Victoria Square complex.

Commenting on the initiative, Aline Djaider, UK real estate manager, Commerz Real AG said:

“The Reface the Base competition offers an exceptional opportunity for Northern Ireland’s next generation of architecture students to get their teeth into the real world of retail design. Victoria Square is Northern Ireland’s premier shopping destination and working on a project of this scale will give these students the opportunity to be involved in a local project with international appeal.

“Securing an efficient and effective use for this space is challenging and could accommodate either a single use or a mix of uses. The emphasis is on producing an imaginative concept, layout and design based on the highest and best use, and which is financially viable. “

Each member of the winning group will receive a £1000 Victoria Square Gift Card, with the winning design featuring in one of the UK’s professional architect journals. Each participating student will also receive a £100 Victoria Square Gift Voucher for taking part in the competition.

Over the summer, the 40 students will work on their design proposals, with entries being submitted for judging in September. The students will also benefit from the expertise and knowledge of the judging panel, which comprises leading national and international experts from the spheres of retail, architecture, design and business.

The judges, who will act as mentors to the students over the summer period include: Aline Djaider, UK real estate manager, Commerz Real AG; Kyle Alexander, former chief executive of Laganside, now programme director of the Maze Long Kesh programme delivery unit; Julie Boyd, Savills, London, associate director, Central London and International Investment; Joe Jordan, president of Belfast Chamber of Commerce; Jim Berry, professor in Real Estate, School of the Built Environment, University of Ulster; Doug Pilkington, formally architect director with BDP & responsible for the delivery of Victoria Square and Irwin McNeill, director of Rapport Architects, formally architect director with BDP with responsibility for Victoria Square. Liam Dornan, chairman of RICS Building Control Professional Group will act as a technical advisor to the judging panel.

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