First the Waterfront Hall announced that it would have to close for refurbishment (annoying the Ulster Orchestra who had been assured the venue would be available for their season's opening concert). Then the Ulster Museum reported that it would close its doors for 2½ years to undergo a facelift.
Now Belfast City Council is considering closing their own headquarters in the centre of Belfast for up to 12 months to fix the roof, remove asbestos, replumb, rewire and repair the stonework of the Edwardian building that recently celebrated its 100th birthday.
If the decision to move out is ratified, will the 300 or so staff be transferred to a portakabin village on the lawn? Or perhaps they could all become homeworkers, kitted out with a laptop, VoIP and a broadband connection? Or more likely, they’ll occupy some of the many floors of vacant (and expensive) office space in the city centre.
Maybe the council will be able to get some free opinion and ideas from the architects attending the one day Urban Alchemy conference on 26 September in the Waterfront Hall.
Trevor Leaker (President of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects) said:
“Too often, we accept mediocre architectural design here. Belfast and Northern Ireland are changing rapidly and we need to match the pace of that transformation with some really innovative architecture and public art. It will take boldness and creativity to ensure that we have cities in which people can really enjoy living, working and visiting.”