Team Trip to Belfast

Hayley Stafford-Jones reviews her first team trip, where she visited the Northern Irish capital of Belfast with Team Clasper.

Day One

Following a hectic week where the team submitted six planning applications, we all finally made it to the airport to start the weekend with a well deserved pint. After landing in Ireland we jumped in taxis to make our way into Belfast through the Irish countryside (with its many cows).

Once we arrived at our accommodation, it was a quick dash to the Lyric Theatre, where we received an interesting tour of the building by the lovely Julie.  We learnt the history of Mary O’Malley and the founding of the theatre while exploring the different performance spaces, as well as the atrium, café, rehearsal spaces, back of stage, costume studio and stage set workshops.  The building has a simple palette of materials – brick, concrete and timber – with well thought out details, like the balustrades design reflecting people walking.  The faceted timber interior of the main performance space was designed to suit the spoken word with angled aisles to reduce distraction for the performer when the audience moves.

We went on to explore Queen’s University campus with its classic red brick buildings and new School of Law building before heading out for food at the Barking Dog.

Lyric Theatre and Queen's University
Lyric Theatre and Queen’s University

Day Two

The next day, after a cooked breakfast, we walked in the sunshine to the Ulster Museum.  We enjoyed a variety of exhibitions in the National Museum, from Game of Thrones to dinosaur bones.  We then made our way through the Botanic Gardens, visiting the Palm House and the Tropical Ravine.  As one of the earliest examples of a curvilinear cast iron glasshouse, the Palm House was interesting and had varying temperatures within each section.  The newly renovated Tropical Ravine provided intense heat, some awful smelling plants and a brilliant example of improved energy efficiency of a listed building.

The team at the Ulster Museum
The team at the Ulster Museum

We visited the Grand Opera House and Belfast City Hall before heading to St George’s Market.  Within the market we explored a range of different foods, drinks and crafts with an accompanying live band as we ate a hearty lunch.  However, the team did not enjoy the smoked seaweed that Clive Rankin had picked up along the way.

Belfast City Hall and St. George's Market
Belfast City Hall and St. George’s Market

Walking off our full stomachs, we headed to Victoria Square shopping centre and up to the viewing platform for the amazing 360 degree views across the city.  Afterwards, we went on to visit Saint Anne’s Cathedral, with a beautiful choir singing, and the MAC, where we all had to get a picture of the colourful string that was stretched across the atrium space.  In typical architect fashion, we all became fascinated by the detail of the automatic doors disappearing sleekly into a recessed void.  We ended the day’s exploration in the Cathedral Quarter with a refreshing drink in the Duke of York.

Exploring the Cathedral Quarter
Exploring the Cathedral Quarter

After a quick pit stop at our accommodation, the evening began at the Grand Central’s observation deck with beautiful cocktails and views across the city.  We went on to eat at Havana Bank Square, enjoying live music whilst refuelling.  The night ended in the Dirty Onion and Yard Bird where we ran into a familiar face – Nick Knowles!

Some of the team enjoying the company of Nick Knowles
Some of the team enjoying the company of Nick Knowles

Day Three

We began our final day by heading to the Titanic Quarter past the Lagan Lookout Centre, City Quays 2 by Grimshaw Architects and the Big Fish (that was surprisingly talkative – although not with Molly Harper).  We visited the Titanic Museum which portrayed the devastating storey of the Titanic, with a focus on how it was built on the same site over 100 years before.  We then visited the SS Nomadic, which was built to transfer passengers to the Titanic and is now known as the Titanic’s little sister.

The Titanic Quarter
The Titanic Quarter

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