Floating City · Imaging and Data Visualisation

Floating City – Belfast Building Research

A crucial feature of our city is that it is inspired by the statistics and buildings of Belfast, we were creating a design that is both close to home and fuelled by our imaginations. We wanted to feature buildings that were not only prominent in our society, but also landmarks that we would pass on a regular basis or have a personal connection to. That is why it was essential to develop some brief research and insight into the buildings of Belfast so we knew a little more about the history of the city. Then we can incorporate the different qualities and elements of home, into our floating city. I thought that the best way to approach this research was to look at well known landmark buildings within Belfast and their architecture in order to create references for our 3D models. Following this we could try to replicate some of these buildings using Maya to inform our final floating city model, or at the very least, make simplified versions of the buildings so we could focus on some of the more prominent features of our city.

The city of Belfast flourished during the Industrial Revolution and by the year 1800 the population had risen to up to 20,000. The city was also made the capital of Northern Ireland in 1921 who’s history has created a ” centre for industry, as well as the arts, higher education and business – and is the economic engine of Northern Ireland”(The history of Belfast – Belfast coin | the royal mint, 2017). Belfast’s Victorian roots are still heavily embedded in the architecture of the city today and are an essential feature in the city’s character. Some buildings following this era of the early nineteenth century have still managed to survive today as popular landmarks, for example City Hall.

With the city’s stunning buildings it created a architectural legacy that is still outstanding today, these magnificent structures include, “The wonderful Custom House, where the great Anthony Trollope kept an office, the Grand Opera House, the recently renovated Ulster Hall as well as Queen’s University – merges beautifully with the more contemporary Belfast Waterfront Hall and Odyssey Arena.” (The history of Belfast – Belfast coin | the royal mint, 2017.)  The architecture of Belfast seem to reflect the time period they were created in, from it’s Edwardian style cathedrals to the modern buildings created during the city’s renovation.

However, as a cause of the Troubles in the late 20th century and other disasters such as the Blitz of 1941, the buildings underwent a great deal of neglect, most of which didn’t survive the impact of history. This led to the development of restoration projects in the late 1980’s to try and protect the architectural legacy of Belfast, creating new landmarks for the city such as the ‘Belfast Waterfront Hall.’

City Hall

Image – https://www.belfastbabyday.com/venue/belfast-city-hall/

City hall was created in order to embrace the 20th century following Belfast’s city status, as declared by Queen Victoria in 1888 when it was originally commissioned. The final project was then completed in 1906. ‘As Rome has St Peter’s, and London has St Paul’s, so Belfast has the City Hall… a truly noble building’ as quoted by  Larmour  (1987) in her novel Belfast: an Illustrated Architectural Guide. The prominent dome on the top of the structure stands at over a staggering 53 metres in height with two sculptures at either side of the door. This was mean’t to represent ‘Belfast’s unique contribution to commerce and the arts.'(Macnab, 2015)

The project to build City Hall originally costed at an underestimated £150,000 before it’s true cost stood at £360,000. The time it took to build this historical landmark was also severely underrated, being estimated at 3 years when in actual fact it took of 8 years. The premise for this landmark was to make it appear as lavish as possible with a number of extravagant features, these include the use of exotic Italian marble, using stone instead of brick and stained glass windows for the exterior.

It is difficult not to admire the grandeur of Belfast’s City Hall, with my first year in Ulster University, only now have I gotten the chance to pass by the building almost everyday. Witnessing the number of tourists and residents it attracts, it’s magnificent exterior made me realise and take in it’s enormity as a huge tourist attraction and landmark.

SSE Arena (Odyssey Arena)

Image – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odyssey_(Belfast)#/media/File:The_Odyssey_-_Belfast.jpg

A major landmark of Belfast that I had to talk about was the SSE Arena, formerly known as the Odyssey arena from 1998-2015, who’s entire development is owned by the Odyssey Trust Company Ltd. The Odyssey Arena was one of the key components in the redevelopment of Belfast along the Laganside, to help give a more modern vibe to the city and attract tourism. The Odyssey was completed in 2001 and soon became a world renowned centre of entertainment.

It featured on the short list for ‘International Large Venue of the Year’ (Outside of North America) in the 2005 Pollstar Concert Industry Awards. This made the SSE Arena one of the top six major concert venues in the world! A lot of the residents of Belfast, including me, would have a very special connection to the Odyssey, it hosted many events that were crucial in boosting the popularity of the city for tourists. As part of the Odyssey Trust, the SSE Arena holds a capacity of 10,800, over 2,000 performances and over 9,000,000 attendance since launch. 

The Arena has worked hard to become firmly established as a key venue and fixture on major European and World tours. Still a relatively young venue, the Arena has enjoyed phenomenal success and popularity in Northern Ireland – with more than 9 million attendees since opening in December 2000.” (Premier entertainment venue, no date)

Ulster University

Image – Ulster University Belfast Campus (2008) http://www.e-architect.co.uk/images/jpgs/ireland/university_ulster_belfast_campus_ta090309_1.jpg

£250 million Ulster University building project delayed

Image – Ulster University Belfast Campus Under Renovation (2016)

Being less of a tourist attraction and more of a huge milestone in my life, I had to include Ulster University somewhere in our floating city model, just because of the major emotional connection I, and many others, have to this building. Despite it’s campuses over Northern Ireland including  Coleraine, Magee College in Derry, and Jordanstown, I want to focus on the Belfast School of Art and Design (1849) campus. With it’s expanding development in Belfast since 2009 it’s part of one of Northern Ireland’s largest-ever urban developments, with nearly 15,000 students and staff will soon be based in the city centre. The University’s has generated “8,000 jobs, spanning a 75,000 sqm area, Costing £250 million in investment with approximately 15,000 students & staff.” (Ulster and Communications, 2015)

Like other famous landmarks within Belfast, Ulster University also has Victorian roots, however it is constantly undergoing renovations to give the school itself a more modern outlook and keep up to date with modern learning. When researching Ulster University, I had discovered a barrage of facts and figures relating to it’s numerous accomplishments. Some of which include,

  • Ulster University invests £42 million in research and innovation programmes each year.
  • Ulster University has created 20 spin-out companies which have a turnover of £28 million and employ over 290 staff.
  • Ulster University is now listed in the prestigious Times Higher Education ranking of the top 150 universities under 50 years old.
  • Ulster is a cosmopolitan university, enabling a cohort of almost 27,000 students to meet their personal and professional ambitions.

Source – https://www.ulster.ac.uk/about/profile/key-facts

Victoria Square
 Victoria Square completed.jpg
Image – Victoria Square (2008)
Victoria Square, opened on the 6th March 2008, is an asset of the more modern era of Belfast and had to be included into our floating city model because of it’s significance in society today. Paul Sargent, Managing Director of Multi Development UK, who was in charge of the development of Victoria Square said: “This is a new social and cultural meeting point of a once divided city.” An example of the progress it has made in fixing the divide and segregation in Northern Irish society, was that two significant political figures in Belfast, former first Minister Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness had attended its grand opening. The £400 million investment connects the city the recently redeveloped Waterfront area and is a prime shopping destination in Northern Ireland. The structure of the building goes as follows,
  • It takes up 1.8 hectres of land
  • It holds over 17 different buildings
  • 98 shop units
  • 106 apartments
  • 1,000 car parking spaces
  • Employed over 3,000 construction staff
  • Employed over 3,000 retail staff

(BBC, 2008)

The massive dome at the centre point of the development measures over 35m in diameter and holds the entire view of the city. At approx 800,000 ft² it is the biggest and one of the most expensive property developments ever undertaken in Northern Ireland.


The history of Belfast – Belfast coin | the royal mint (2017) Available at: http://www.royalmint.com/discover/uk-cities/history-of-belfast (Accessed: 4 March 2017).
Ireland, C.N. (2015) The architecture of Belfast. Available at: http://www.culturenorthernireland.org/features/heritage/architecture-belfast (Accessed: 4 March 2017).
Architects, A.M. (2015) Guide to amazing architecture of Belfast | Northern Ireland. Available at: http://am-arch.co.uk/travel-through-history-via-the-amazing-architecture-of-belfast/ (Accessed: 4 March 2017).
Bennett, D. (2007) The odyssey arena. Available at: http://www.belfasthistory.net/odyssey_arena.html#reference1 (Accessed: 4 March 2017).
Odyssey (Belfast) (2017) in Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odyssey_(Belfast) (Accessed: 4 March 2017).
BabyDay, T. (2015) Belfast city hall. Available at: https://www.belfastbabyday.com/venue/belfast-city-hall/ (Accessed: 4 March 2017).
Ulster and Communications, D. (2015) Belfast campus. Available at: https://www.ulster.ac.uk/belfastcampus (Accessed: 4 March 2017).
BBC (2008) Victoria Square set for opening. Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7279349.stm (Accessed: 5 March 2017).
Victoria Square shopping centre (2017) in Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_Square_Shopping_Centre (Accessed: 5 March 2017).

Group Credit

Molly – http://shepaintedher.weebly.com/

Charlotte – https://charlottebryansart.wordpress.com/

Viola -https://blog.schantalls.net/


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