The River Lagan in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is set to become the centrepiece of a new $400 million redevelopment, which will see it transformed into a residential and communal space that references Copenhagen harbour.
The plan has been proposed by the Scandinavian company Henning Larsen Architects, and will feature development of 750 new residential housing, a hotel, communal spaces, and leisure and office precincts, all situated along the River Lagan. The proposal is in conjunction with the “Back to the River” plan formed by the Belfast City Council who plan to use the river to, “Create opportunities for tourism, employment, community engagement and economic growth”.
Copenhagen was recently developed with new housing, offices and communal spaces, including pedestrian- and cycle-ways, and will act as a reference point for the redevelopment of the River Lagan.
“We saw a truly special opportunity in this ambitious project to bring a Nordic understanding of outdoor living to Belfast," said Jacob Kurek, partner of Henning Larsen Architects. “From Copenhagen, we know that harbours have an enormous potential to activate public life in a city. We are going to create the framework for people to feel part of a shared public life by [the] River Lagan, making it attractive to stay in the city.”
The river is the be the centrepiece of the leisure and entertainment precincts and will include pedestrian and cyclying zones along the banks. No longer is it to be a separate entity from the rest of the city, but an integral part of the tourism, residential and commercial activities and developments. The plan will see the construction of a vibrant and active waterfront on the River Legan, with bridges across to connect each bank to both the other and the city centre. The goal is for the River to no longer be a barrier to the two sides of Belfast, but a key connection point, and to allow for the outdoor spaces along the river to be used all-year round, even in winter.
Further inspiration was drawn from one of Northern Ireland’s key tourist locations, the Giant’s Causeway. This popular destination features tiered buildings that step up from the river banks, providing both scenic views to the river and a barrier from the wind, allowing for the area to be usable year-round. By reducing wind force along the water, outdoor areas can be used comfortably for up to 25 weeks per year, a significant increase from the current nine weeks that the Irish weather permits.
The landscaping will complement the terraced buildings, and the geometric patterned stones will provide a nod to the honeycomb stone stacks at the Giant’s Causeway.
“Analysing the thermal microclimate, we applied an effective scale-gradient strategy to the project,” explained 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. At the same time, this strategy allows us to ensure river views and good daylight conditions from all buildings.”
This development of the River Lagan is far from the first one to have been proposed, with many development attempts at revitalising the area taking place to a range of various successes. In the 90s the Waterfront concert hall and Odyssey sports and entertainment complex were two of the city’s first event spaces, and in 2012 the Titanic Belfast museum was opened.
The revitalisation of the River Legan seeks to provide direct pathways from the waterfront activities to these locations, increasing traffic to and from these precincts and accumulating revenue for both.
Work is expected to begin mid-2018 and be completed mid-2022, with the goal of the development to result in “A thriving business and creative quarter”, as stated by project developers Vanguard Real Estate.