Entries in Titanic (1)

Friday
Sep052014

Titanic Belfast

On Queen’s Island in the Belfast docks a rather intriguing building catches your eye.  It’s one of the most remarkable buildings I have seen.   My eyes drawn to it time and time again.  The silver anodised three-dimensional aluminium shards, several thousand of which cover the building’s facade, reflect light in the most interesting of ways, giving the building a slightly different look depending on the time of day.  The effect is really quite unique and holds your attention as you look at it.

It’s an angular building; its four spiky corners are designed by Eric Kuhne Associates to resemble the ship The Titanic’s Prows.  The building comprises of four Prows each standing at 38 metres high, the same height as Titanic’s Hull.  Standing at the bottom looking up I have a sense of the immense scale and sheer size of that legendary ship.

We had the chance to meet Eric when the building opened, because Belfast Community Gospel Choir in which I sing were part of the opening ceremony.  As Eric heard us sing, 'Something inside so strong' he stood with tears rolling down his eyes and said, 'We have brought music and life back to the shipyards.'

The building is Titanic Belfast and it opened in April 2012.  It is an interactive visitor experience, with galleries giving the history from a social, economic and political perspective of Boomtown Belfast which was one of the world’s major industrial cities in the 18 & early 1900s.  It includes the history of the cities great shipyards Harland and Wolff, which were at their peak the largest shipyard in the world.

Over nine galleries the exhibition uses media projection, photographic, artefacts, video, interactive features, guides and words to tell the story of Belfast at the time of the Titanic.  

The immediate interior uses galvanised steel juxtaposed with glass and wood to dramatic effect.  It feels modern and fresh, but all at once timeless.  There is a sense of history and scale that is impressive and draws out the feeling of what it actually was like to work with huge pieces of steel in the shipyards.

Life sized silhouettes of people are superimposed onto the walls of the gallery, giving the visitor a sense of walking the streets of Belfast along with shipyard and mills workers.  It is a rather immersive experience which has been cleverly thought out.  Eyewitness accounts of the men who designed the ship or owned the shipyards are displayed on cards on the wall along with views of people who saw the ship launch from Belfast in April 1912, or those who worked on the ship itself.

The gantry is a very powerful part of the gallery experience, which truly sent shivers up my spine, as we stood at the bottom and looked up at the metal scaffle rods men would have worked on without safety nets.  The height is incredible and somewhat disconcerting, it firmly places in the mind the actual scale of the ocean liners.  Standing at the top and looking down I had little shocks run up my legs from the huge height.  

There is an indoor aerial ride, which again cleverly uses a range of media to tell the story.  This was particularly impressive to us as it takes the visitor through different aspects of the shipyards as if given a birdseye view on the action.  Sounds and echoes give a sense of the noise and cramped space shipyards workers would have had to endure. 

There is a video of two men rivets, hammering in rivets in a tiny box, one hammers then the other, in a rhythm. The noise and compression of their workspace is eery to see, these men were  paid by the number of rivets they placed each day.

The physical recreation exhibits of first, second and third class cabins, and a lifeboat give a real sense of the scale onboard the ship, and the difference in furnishings depending on class, as well as the truly remarkable sense of how tiny those lifeboats actually were for a ship of that size.  Interestingly there are no actual artefacts from the ship itself, but this does not mire the experience of Titanic Belfast in anyway. 

The tour is either self or audio guided, however there are plenty of staff around, who are all very knowledgeable and if they don’t know an answer to a question they find it out for you.  We asked one at the beginning of the ride through the shipyard and had an answer by the end.  An mpressive attention to detail and desire to make the visitor experience a good one.

The galleries use light effectively to portray the story of the city and Belfast, some of the galleries are in darkness lit only in specific areas, which makes the experience very moving, as you reflect not only on the history of the city, but the lives of the people who built Titanic and ultimately those who died on her.  As well as a history of oceanic exploration and the discovery of the Titanic Wreck, there is a glass floor to walk on with projections of the ship’s wreck below.  And yes, the Celine Dion song does play at one point, and it’s beautiful.

This bold, innovative and striking museum makes for a fascinating insightful experience, one we highly recommend.

Titanic Belfast is an essential stop on any visit to Belfast, whether you are a tourist or a local.

And after touring the building I highly recommend you stop for afternoon tea, which we'll be telling you all about very soon.

 

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

 

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Titanic Belfast
1 Olympic Way,
Queen's Road,
Titanic Quarter,
Belfast,
Northern Ireland
BT3 9EP
Tel: +44 28 9076 6399
ticketing@titanicbelfast.com