A 12-month competition, led by Belfast City Council and supported by RIBA, has culminated with the appointment of an integrated design team for ‘Belfast Stories’ – a unique destination set to open by 2029, unlocking almost 100 years of heritage at the 1931 Art Deco Bank of Ireland site on Royal Avenue.
The architectural appointment is a partnership between Oslo-based Snøhetta, and Belfast-based TODD Architects. They will lead on design, supported by a team of specialists, whilst property and construction consultancy, Gleeds, has been appointed to oversee project management and design assurance. The companies have proven experience in delivering major cultural and public realm projects, and a track record of creating sustainable places that benefit both visitors and local people.
As a flagship project of the £850 million Belfast Region City Deal, the appointed consortium will see the 5,000m2 site transformed into a state-of-the-art, interactive, and immersive visitor experience that celebrates the stories of Belfast and provides vibrant social spaces for everyone to enjoy.
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Ryan Murphy, said: “Appointing a design team is a significant milestone. We’re grateful to all those involved in the international design competition for supporting us to attract the highest calibre of talent to match the ambition we have for this unique destination.
"Belfast Stories will transform a much-loved heritage site and continue the regeneration of this part of the city centre, as well as becoming a vibrant place for people from Belfast and further afield to come together and share in the unique character of this place and its people. We look forward to inviting residents to support this unique opportunity as the appointed team determine a design that reflects local contributions.”
While work on the design is yet to start, it is intended that the site will become the city’s greatest example of a climate resilient building, supporting Belfast’s position as a top 10 globally sustainable city, according to the 2022 Global Destinations Sustainability Index.
Robert Greenwood, Partner and Director at Snøhetta, said: “We are delighted to be appointed, alongside TODD Architects and Gleeds, to bring this truly transformative landmark project to life. We recognise the building and its adjacent site have the potential to become a bold architectural statement that Belfast can be proud of.
"We share in Belfast City Council’s vision and collectively offer the insight and experience to create a space that will improve the vibrancy and aesthetic of this part of the city. We also recognise how excellent architecture can deliver community benefits and have lasting cultural impact.”
Paul Crowe, Director at TODD Architects, said: “We are tremendously excited to have been selected and are motivated to start working on this unique project along with the wider team.
"We understand the complexity of the task at hand in that the new design must represent the highest standard of modern architecture, while sympathetically restoring the Bank of Ireland building to its former glory, all while reflecting what is authentically Belfast.”