Designed by Henning Larsen, the Belfast Waterside development, located along the banks of River Lagan, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, has officially been granted planning approval by the Belfast City Council after a year in the planning approval process.
The 2.6-ha (6.4-acre) site, located on the site of a former Sirocco Engineering Works factory, will transform an area on the east bank of the river that has been disused for nearly two decades. The scheme places the public at the heart of the development, removing existing boundary walls and improving public access to a long-hidden corner of the city.
“We saw a truly special opportunity in this ambitious project to bring a Nordic understanding of the public realm to Belfast,” said Jacob Kurek, Henning Larsen partner. “From Copenhagen, we know harbors and rivers have enormous potential to attract and activate public life in a city. River Lagan will no longer be a division in Belfast but a connection—a hub—instead.”
Across Europe, cities are in the process of regenerating old industrial areas along their waterfronts, Henning Larsen said. The Belfast Waterside development is set to become the single largest development in Belfast’s recent history. The project aims to fully activate the potential of River Lagan by creating a year-round vibrant community complete with cultural venues, leisure and retail facilities, 750 homes, hotels, and office spaces with a total build-up area of nearly 158,000 m2 (1.7 million sf).
The scheme rests on a microclimate framework designed to expand the comfortable outdoor season onsite from nine weeks in the year to 25. Building heights step up the further back they are from the river and, coupled with broad façade frontage along the waterfront, guides drafts over the rooftops rather than through the streets.
“The scale-gradient strategy is the direct result of thermal microclimate analysis,” said Kurek. “By placing the tallest office buildings along the north, facing the railway, we will create a noise-blocking acoustic barrier. The lower buildings, facing south, keep the riverfront pedestrian-friendly and human-scaled. Every building gets a view of the water and good daylight—and people get a more comfortable setting at the ground level.”
Extending the comfortable outdoor season seems more essential a function of design than ever, the firm said, as the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown meant the safest public spaces were ones outside.
“As the city starts to reopen and begin its journey to recovery (from COVID-19), the development of Belfast’s Waterside will mark a significant step forward in Belfast’s regeneration,” said Councillor John Hussey, chair of Belfast City Council’s planning committee. “The Belfast Waterside development will transform a key site which has been out of use since 1999—providing new space for city center living and high quality office space, as well as much needed affordable housing units, ensuring it becomes a place for everyone.”