As I’m currently missing the motherland, it’s perhaps about time I wrote about some element of NI’s ‘Great Design’.
I have chosen the Titanic Museum, or to give it it’s proper name ” Titanic Belfast”.
Titanic Belfast was built as the focal point of the Titanic Quarter regeneration project, and was opened in 2012 to commemorate the infamous Titanic’s maiden voyage. The aim was to attract more tourists to the area and showcase to the world Northern Ireland’s proud shipbuilding history- it’s unfortunate really, that our most famous ship was one that ws such a tragedy.
I have to say that when they first unveiled it, I really wasn’t a fan. I initially thought it was very big and garish with its sharp angles and bright silver sides. It seemed out of place, out on its own in the docks among what still looked a lot like a building site, and to be honest it still does look a little lonely out there.
But in the years since it was built it’s really grown on me. The more time I spend looking at it the more detail I see.There’s probably also an element of ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’, in there as well.
I consider it ‘Great Design’ because of how well it reflects its subject matter. Each corner representing the hull of a different ship, the silver facets dancing in the (very rare) sunlight giving the illusion of the boughs breaking through waves and swaying as it crosses the Atlantic. They’re to scale as well, giving you a sense of the sheer size of these ships that is otherwise hard to visualise. The building itself is 126ft high, the same height as its namesake.
Then there’s the reflecting pools at the base, rippling in the constant breeze and giving a beautiful reflection of the underside of the faceted hulls- demonstrating again the enormous size.
In the sunlight, and actually when its lit up at night the same sharp angles, and faceted silver sides are also reminiscent of the great iceberg which defeated the Titanic on her maiden trip. In the true Northern Irish spirit of giving our landmarks alternative and humorous names, lest anyone should ever accuse us of taking ourselves too seriously- Titanic Belfast has simply been nicknamed “The Iceberg”. It’s not as good as “Nuala with the Hoola”, but I suppose it’ll have to do…
The interior is also beautiful, full of acid stained steel, mirroring the fate of the great ships the museum remembers. The atrium makes you think of the bottom of the docks and gangways themselves, you can imagine yourself at the bottom of the dry docks looking up at the unfinished ships when standing on the ground floor looking up through the atrium, flooded with light and surrounded by 5 floors of balconies and exhibition entrances-it feels a little like being surrounded by the scaffold of a building in the middle of construction.
Honestly, I really do think this building is brilliant, and no the NI tourist board is not paying me (although maybe they should be…). I like it for much the same reason that I love the costumes and the sets in the Lion King. I like that it represents something without trying to copy it and that it instead attempts to capture a sense of it. What I think makes it ‘Great’, is its success in doing so.