Waterfront Hall

By Robinson and McIlwaine Architects

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The concrete-framed building consists of a large circular drum clad in Portland stone, red brick and granite with a large expanse of glazing and a copper-covered shallow-domed roof; it is adjoined by a lower rectangular building housing the studio theatre. Larmour says,“the overall expression is entirely modern, with an abstract feel, underlined by the Hi-Tech planar glazing canting out toward the river and the angular porte-cochere at the entrance.” Inside, the main auditorium is a striking space, with strong echoes of the design of Hans Scharoun Philharmonic Hall, Berlin.

Within the context of “The Troubles” it offered a counter-intuitive design solution to a brief using expensive materials of high quality with strong civic resonances, and deploying large amounts of sophisticated glazing previously unthinkable in Belfast city centre. It is a building which speaks of confidence in the future and of literal and metaphorical transparency: the opposite of “patch up and mend” or “any development is good development”, the Waterfront Hall was designed and built with the expectation of being used and lasting. The building development also created new surrounding areas of public/civic space for open-air congregation, which were also of significance within the context of the time, although now somewhat diluted in their impact ” see Ciaran Mackel” Trouble Archive essay.

The Waterfront Hall is the prestigious focal point of Belfast’s “Laganside” river-front regeneration, which aimed to reconnect the city centre to the River Lagan. The building, however, has a potent over-riding significance in marking a bold statement of confidence in the city’s potential not only by being a major cultural complex but in its structural form: an optimistically curved building with a glassy facade. The project was conceived by Belfast City Council within the context of “The Troubles” in 1978 although it took until 1992 before it was properly underway on site. It has become a pioneering symbol of the “new” Belfast, although it considerably pre-dates the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Paul Larmour in Modern Ulster Architecture (p.122) points out that the Waterfront Hall was the first major civic building in Belfast since the 1930s and also the first in the 20th century to be designed by local architects. Robinson McIlwaine won the competition for the £29.1 million scheme with a core architectural design team which included Victor Robinson, Derek McIlwaine and Peter McGuckian but which was increased to include around 20 designers working on different areas of the building.

Further Infomation


Lanyon Place, Laganside


2 Lanyon Place, Laganside





54.597801328358294, -5.92038631439209


Date of Project


Year Opened


Name of Architect

Robinson and McIlwaine Architects


Concert Hall


Major civic Concert Hall with 2,250-seat auditorium, studio theatre, conference facilities and related ancillary accommodation.