Titanic Belfast

Titanic Belfast is a visitor attraction opened in 2012, a monument to Belfast's maritime heritage on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard in the city's Titanic Quarter where the RMS Titanic was built. It tells the stories of the Titanic, which hit an iceberg and sank during her maiden voyage in 1912, and her sister ships RMS Olympic and HMHS Britannic. The building contains more than 12,000 square metres (130,000 sq ft) of floor space, most of which is occupied by a series of galleries, private function rooms and community facilities.

Titanic Belfast is owned by the Maritime Belfast Trust and commercially operated by Titanic Belfast Limited under a 25-year operator agreement which commenced in 2011.

 Titanic Belfast seen in context from the front

The building is located on Queen's Island, an area of land at the entrance of Belfast Lough which was reclaimed from the water in the mid-19th century. It was used for many years by the shipbuilders Harland and Wolff, who built huge slipways and graving docks to accommodate the simultaneous construction of the Olympic, Titanic and the Britannic. The decline of shipbuilding in Belfast left much of the area derelict. Most of the disused structures on the island were demolished. A number of heritage features were given listed status, including the Olympic Titanic and Britannic slipways and graving docks, as well as the iconic Samson and Goliath cranes.[1]

The derelict land was renamed the "Titanic Quarter" in 2001 and was earmarked for regeneration.[2] Development rights over 185 acres was subsequently bought by Harcourt Developments at a cost of £47 million,[3] with 23 more acres set aside for a science park. The redevelopment plans included houses, hotels and entertainment amenities plus a maritime heritage museum and science centre.[4] In 2005, plans were announced to build a museum dedicated to Titanic to attract tourists to the area, with the aim of completing it by 2012 to mark the centenary of Titanic's maiden voyage and sinking.[5]

Among ideas considered for the attraction were reconstructing the massive Arrol Gantry in which Titanic, Olympic and Britannic were constructed,[5] or building an illuminated wire frame outline of Titanic in the dock in which she was fitted out.[6] In June 2008, details of a project  – known then as the "Titanic Signature Project" – were announced.[7] Northern Ireland's Tourism Minister, Arlene Foster, announced that the Northern Ireland Executive would provide 50 per cent of the attraction's funding through the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, with the remaining 50 per cent coming from the private sector, in the shape of Titanic Quarter Ltd (a sister company of Harcourt Developments) and the Belfast Harbour Commissioners. Additional funding was pledged by Belfast City Council.

The task of creating the visitor attraction was taken on by Harcourt Developments, who enlisted the help of the American architect Eric Kuhne and British exhibition designers Event Communications.[citation needed] The building, now known as Titanic Belfast, was expected to attract 425,000 visitors annually, of whom between 130,000 and 165,000 would come from outside Northern Ireland. It is intended to serve a similar transformational function to that of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry, as a focus for the regeneration of the city.[8] It forms part of the Titanic–related heritage sites in Titanic Quarter, including the disused headquarters and drawing offices of Harland & Wolff, the SS Nomadic – the last surviving White Star Line ship – and Hamilton Dock, Titanic's Dock and Pump house and the Titanic Olympic and Britannic slipways.[9]

^ DOENI Case Study. ^ Macalister & 6 February 2001. ^ The Irish Times & 18 June 2003. ^ Cowan, Gow & 13 April 2002. ^ a b Arendt & 5 May 2005. ^ Peterkin & 19 October 2005. ^ McHugh & 19 June 2008. ^ McConnell & Oct–Nov 2010. ^ Belfast Telegraph & 15 April 2011.
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