‘The Boat’ was selected as the winning proposal in a developer-led design competition set by the Belfast Laganside Redevelopment Corporation.
The brief was for a mixed-use development on ‘Plot 01’, the site remaining subsequent to substantial landscaping of lands to make a city square at the neighbouring Custom House in Belfast.
A key aim was that the development maximised the site’s commercial potential whilst addressing the adjacent square, River Lagan and Belfast City.
The Boat was conceived to embody ‘work, rest and play’ in one scheme, achieving approval for uses including: Bar/Restaurant (leisure), Office (commercial), and Apartment (residential) - a unique typology in Belfast. With these varying functions, the scheme had an innate potential to enliven the area at extended times which a single-use scheme could never have achieved.
The Boat’s architectural form was shaped in response to its location. Positioned at the edge of the River Lagan and Custom House Square a combination of boundary conditions, permitted both ‘solidity and openness’ with the creating of ‘active facades’.
The building’s plan form gestures to the River Lagan and the city; the timber solar control louvre screen a metaphoric ‘out-stretched arm’. Coloured ‘picture frames’ and projecting balconies add incident and playfulness to the overall composition, with colours echoing Belfast’s industrial heritage and the nearby shipyards.
Aside from the influences of the River Lagan and Belfast city, the site is a key nodal point at the edge of the river which acts as an entrance-marker to a tighter urban grain starting beyond the edge of the river. The building frames the Custom House and also acts a backdrop to the new urban square.
The building is considered as an important ‘end stop’ to the block, the tallest part adjacent to a vacant ready for redevelopment. The ‘lightest’ portion and tapering point of the building addresses the Grade 1 listed Custom House. To aid the overall scale and massing of the building a ‘shoulder’ set-back was introduced at the residential level, reducing the visual impact of the height and further articulating the composition.
Materials and Method of Construction
The building’s plan form and height contributed to structure choice – pre-dominantly a flat slab concrete frame. The lack of down-stand elements assists in minimising the floor to floor height. The ‘solid’ elements of the building are traditional masonry cavity construction with silicone render externally; glazed facades are thermally broken double-glazed aluminium systems with hardwood solar shading. Roofs are lightweight construction comprising a plywood deck insulated single-ply membrane.
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