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Widening Access Student's Titanic Dream



An inspirational plan to convert the ‘Old Pump House’ in the Titanic Quarter into a museum of dreams has been unveiled by a University of Ulster student.

Victor Branco, who is originally from Portugal, designed ‘The Secret Chambers’ as his final project in the Interior strand of the BDes Hons 3D Design.

He graduates today with a first class BDes Hons 3D Design (Interior/ Product/Furniture) and he is one of seven students on the current final year of the course who came through the university’s widening access programme, the Cert HE Interior Design.

“The Secret Chambers is a space which explores the wonders of the human mind through the surreal and complex world of our dreams. It is a thrilling and unique experience which invites the visitor to embark on a journey of exploration and analysis through the imaginary and symbology of our dreams,” explained Victor.

“The Chambers are situated within the ‘Old Pump House’ adjacent to the Thompson Dry Dock in the Harland and Wolf Shipyard. They are a series of rooms set within the pump pit of the existing building to form an intriguing labyrinth representing the complex subconscious state of the human mind during REM sleep. The rooms house representations of our most common dreams.

“An extension built underground leads the visitor from one secret chamber to the adjacent dry dock where the ‘Contemplation Room’ cantilevers over the dock providing the visitor with an opportunity to experience the scale and drama of the last physical footprint of the Titanic. This footprint also symbolises the dream of people in Belfast – to build the biggest ship in the world and the passengers’ dream of new life.

“The glazed walls of the Contemplation Room offer 180 degrees views along the length of the dock and its industrial surroundings. The dock itself can become part of the Museum and used in the evening for art installations.

“Another innovative feature in the building is the ‘Dream Wall’ where visitors can leave handwritten messages about their own dreams and ambitions.

“The design, which respects the original Victorian architecture, brings together the two disciplines of surrealism and architecture in the interior landscape through the use of design, art installation and audiovisual stimulus.”

Praising Victor’s design, course director, of the Cert HE Interior Design course Dr. Nuala Rooney, said: “Victor’s project is fantastic – very innovative and inspirational. Students at this level are expected not only to produce original design briefs, but also the technical back up to prove that their ideas can function as a working building.

“Victor had no previous design experience and he firstly studied the part time Cert HE Interior Design, which is a feeder for the interior strand of the BDes Hons 3D Design course.

“Of the students graduating this year from the BDes 3D Design course, seven have come through the part time Cert HE Interior design. Four years ago none of these students had any prior experience in art and design but today, all but one of them, have received a 2:1 or first, which is a major achievement.  

“The Certificate is the only part time widening access course in the School of Art and Design and School of Architecture and Design. It appeals to mature students who are looking for a change of career and this year’s success stories prove that it’s never too late to enter education. 

“Also the great thing about the part time course is that it opens the door for students to test their aptitude for design before they take the plunge and go full time.

“In addition to the local students, the course has attracted students from Australia, Portugal, Latvia and Poland - all of whom were living and working in Northern Ireland and were prepared to make the move from part time to full time education to complete their studies.


“I am really delighted with the students’ progress and success this year and it confirms my belief that widening participation offers excellent opportunities and pathways to education and careers.”





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