Belfast Telegraph

Is the Waterfront Hall extension in Belfast an eye-sore?

By Claire Williamson

It's an iconic image of Belfast - the Waterfront Hall alongside the River Lagan. But now there are fears it could soon be no more - as an extension branded an "eye-sore", threatens to block that view.

The popular concert and conference venue opened nearly 20-years-ago and is currently undergoing a £29.5m extension.

The work is expected to be completed by December with the aim of transforming it into a world class conference centre.

However, despite the fact that the work is not yet completed - it has already been met with criticism as many have complained that the new extension is blocking the view of the Waterfront from the distinctive water's edge.

The new appearance of the Waterfront Hall with its growing extension - has been likened to looking like a "caravan" and a "mobile home".

In Northern Ireland when other, now iconic, landmarks appeared such as Rise at Broadway Roundabout and the Beacon of Hope over Queen's Bridge - they were given alternative nicknames by locals.

And now so too has the soon-to-be extension at the Waterfront.

As discussed on the BBC Stephen Nolan Show, members of the public are now coming up with a name to describe the construction.

One said: "This is brutal, it's like a school building," while another tweeted: "Like a floating trailer park".

Taking to Twitter suggestions were flying in with one opting to dub it the "Portacabin on the Lagan", "The Belfast box or the Shoebox on the water", "The waterfront wall and the "sore on the shore".

<< Send us your suggestions in the comments or email here >>

Joining the debate was commentator Malachi O'Doherty who said it was like "mobile home".

"I said so at the time when it was announced they were doing this.

"The plan appeared to be to build a box around the Waterfront Hall, I think the Waterfront Hall as it was is a beautiful building, an embellishment, an ornament of Belfast and the riverside.

"I think it's an absolute atrocity to conceal that, but to conceal it with something that looks like a mobile home.

"There is no elegance or charm or beauty about it at all. What were these people thinking?"

He continued: "In the 90s and the excitement around the sense of a new Belfast and a city that was accessible again. This is symbolic in the sense that, it's a beautiful building, or was a beautiful building until they destroyed it, in a beautiful part of Belfast.

@StephenNolan how about the Wagon on the Lagan?

— Brendan McKeown(@TheeSloog) August 18, 2015

It was also symbolic of a period of time when people could come out of the darker areas, and people were more mobile within the city and could come to a new beautiful space which was open to everybody and represented the new city in peace times.

"And to forget all that and to discount the elegance of it, to discount the historic value of it, to discount the skyline of Belfast to discount the scenery around the river and say 'oh what we need is a conference centre so we'll build a big box around the Waterfront.

"If you wanted a conference centre in Sydney would you build a box around the Sydney Opera House?"

Belfast City Councillor Jim Rodgers said that the critics will be "impressed" when they see the finished article - but acknowledged that some may see it as an eye-sore.

He said: "The space that we were building it was limited. The emphasis here is on exhibition centre and I think Malachi and others who are being critical will really be impressed when they see the finished interior."

He continued: "If you realise there is some architecture has changed tremendously over the year. Young architects have different ideas to some of their older breed.

"It will grow on people. As you come over the Queen's bridge and look left, it may look a little bit like an eye sore but I won't accept it looks like a mobile home.

"It's not an eye sore. It may look to some people like an eye sore but i have no doubt that once they get right up to it close and once they get into the interior.

"Because remember we are competing here in a very very difficult market. We are being repeatedly told that conferences won't come to Belfast and use the Waterfront Hall because we don't have large enough exhibition space."

He added: "I have no doubt that whenever you see the finished article they will be more than impressed."

Further reading:

Taxpayers are facing £3m Waterfront Hall upgrade bill amid extension

Waterfront work 'costs taxpayers'

Waterfront Hall unveils £30m revamp plan 

@StephenNolan I was horrified to see this blocking the beautiful waterfront - corroborate vandalism

— Sally (@Moylinney) August 18, 2015

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