Rival exhibition centres Waterfront Hall and Titanic Exhibition Centre are work of same architects
The architects behind the much-criticised new Waterfront Hall extension have also been working on a rival exhibition centre being built just across the River Lagan, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Todd Architects will help deliver the Titanic Exhibition Centre (TEC) to owners Titanic Quarter in the next few weeks, several months before the Waterfront project is due for completion.
The TEC is understood to have cost only £1m and is, technically, a temporary structure.
But, at 120m long by 50m wide and boasting 5,000 square metres of usable exhibition space on Belfast Harbour Estate's Queen's Road, it will be Northern Ireland's largest indoor conference and exhibition venue - at least for now.
There is little doubt that, with both venues capable of hosting more than 20,000 visitors and hundreds of exhibitors, they will ultimately be in direct competition with each other.
A Titanic Quarter (TQ) spokesperson confirmed that Todd Architects acted as technical advisers to them on the TEC.
Todd Architects did not respond to the Belfast Telegraph's calls or emails about the new centre.
The incomplete £29.5m Waterfront extension project it designed has been the subject of much debate recently and has already been given unflattering nicknames - such as the Box on the Docks and the Sore on the Shore.
What's not in doubt, however, is its gargantuan size, which blocks out the view of the original Waterfront Hall building to anyone east of the Lagan.
The TEC got the green light from Belfast City Council's planning committee in June.
Situated across from Titanic Studio and built in the shadow of the Goliath crane, it is due to host its first event, the Wedding Journal Show, from September 18 to 20. Another six events have been secured, including the Holiday World Show, SelfBuild & Improve Your Home Show, IFEX Exhibition, Love Your Home and Creative Crafts.
It is seen as providing an alternative to the King's Hall and there are plans to host at least 14 major events a year.
Conal Harvey, deputy chairman of Titanic Belfast Ltd and executive vice chairman for Titanic Quarter Limited, said a number of event organisers met two years ago to discuss the creation of a dedicated central Belfast venue capable of hosting large-scale exhibitions. "The Titanic Exhibition Centre further complements the existing offering for conference, banqueting and exhibition facilities in the city," he said.
"With the Waterfront Hall, the SSE Arena, Titanic Belfast, and now the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast is firmly on the international map for consumer shows and corporate conferences."
Former Belfast Lord Mayor Jim Rodgers said there had been many conferences which had chosen not to come to Belfast over the years because the city's available exhibition space wasn't sufficient.
"We have found that a lot of conferences haven't come to Belfast over the years because our exhibition space wasn't big enough," he said.
"We've been lagging behind other venues, which is why we took this decision to build an extension.
"The Waterfront Hall is going to be refurbished and we'll also have this extension which will help us compete with other cities across the world."