A planning application is being submitted for a tower building in Belfast that could change the city’s landscape forever.

The 12-storey building would be the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, providing a “unique and future-proof building model that can respond to changes in culture or use”.

Belfast based NEWStudios, led by award winning architect Robert Jamison, is to submit a planning application to erect a tower building on Fountainville Avenue, located off the Lisburn Road, the site of a derelict 1880s National School and former pool hall

It is the vision of Robert Jamison, the architect responsible for the Spire of Hope added to St Anne’s Cathedral in 2007 as part of the redevelopment of the Cathedral Quarter.

He founded the National Experimental Workshop Studios (NEWStudios) in 2015 and brought forward the designs for the Fountainville Rooms as an example of what he described as a “unique and future-proof building model that can respond to changes in culture or use”.

The architect believes the city has been mistreated with insensitive development and through this new collaborative studio practice proposes to offer more responsible solutions for urban development.

It is hoped the tower structure, located adjacent to the 1930’s Smyth Halls, will become a literal landmark for sustainable, community orientated design. Rising from a small footprint on a brownfield site, the vertical design, or ‘missing tower’ will join a cluster of church towers that surround the site, and have informed the immediate context at this part of the Lisburn Road.

Spaces are stacked in an arrangement that corkscrews around a central lift shaft, an arrangement that results in a continuous uninterrupted circulation route from ground to roof level, offering a variety of spaces both large and small, for public gatherings to more private use.

He said: “We have described it as a building without a function; a space without prescribed uses that can respond to the needs of other occupants, to meet residential, commercial, social, healthcare or even ecclesiastical requirements. To adsorb shifts and respond to changes in the surrounding urban character over time.”

“Adaptable buildings, of this kind, are familiar to almost all other major cities in Europe. However this is an opportunity for the people of Belfast to shape and experience experimental proposals first hand. Already we are working on other projects rethinking suburban living, and more responsible approaches for how we live in and occupy a space.”

He added: “We intend the tower to be a physical landmark, a symbol demonstrating a responsible and appropriate shift in attitude towards urban design and architecture. This considered and involved approach suggests hyper-adaptable and super-contextual concepts, which can be applied to other buildings on other sites, this tower, however, cannot. It is a proposal unique to Fountainville Avenue, defined by its adjacency to Smyth Halls. Moreover, too often the pedestrian street is hijacked by blank facades in public locations and as a personal rule for building within the city, it is imperative our project activates the street, to engage with pedestrians and public and create a sense of place for all local communities, and pedestrian traffic.”

NEWStudios will hold a pre-application community consultation with public by opening up its studio as part of Culture Night Belfast on September 16, 12-8pm.

The Fountainville Rooms, which will be financed by a private individual, currently includes community proposals for a ground-floor community café, and exhibition space as an adjunct and support to the Foundation School. Whilst hyper flexible internally, the street level will be dedicated to uses supporting the internal, local and wider community of the city.

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