The University of Ulster today set out its vision of a vibrant 21st century campus in the heart of Belfast.
Stunning architects’ impressions andimages of the new £250 million development, built around the existing campus in York Street, were released for the first time today.
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Richard Barnett, explained: "We are proposing a world class campus in the heart of the city which will not only provide a dynamic learning and research environment for our students and staff but will also interact with the wider public.
"Universities which were built in the city have in the past tended to be inward-facing institutions behind iron railings and walls which did not interact with the communities around them.
"We are breaking from that tradition with a bold design that sends out a very strong message locally and internationally that we want everyone to feel thatthis is their university, regardless of their background, and we want them to have access to the building and facilities inside.
"It is very important to us that this design is not simply facing the city centre. It will be accessible from a number of points, inviting those communities which border the development to the north of the city and other parts of Belfast to come inside. We hope itÃ¯¿½will become their gateway to the city centre.
“The new development also sends a strong message to the business community that the University values its engagement with them,with a campus that will be on their doorstep, training staff and providing research and innovation expertise.”
Professor Barnett said the University was very excited by the landmark design developed by architects FeildenCleggBradley Studios for its new campus. Their work not only draws on the rich architectural heritage of Belfast but is sensitive to the surrounding cityscape, he added.
“At the same time, the design points to a new vision of how the city might develop as an attractive and vibrant centre for innovation and learning in the future.
"From an educational point of view, our Belfast city campus will draw on best international practice - providing facilities which not only meet 21st century teaching and learning needs but which encourage new thinking and creativity among students and staff."
The campus will house the 15,000 full-time and part-time students and staff who are already based at Jordanstown and Belfast.
The new Belfast city centre campus will:
:: be approximately 75,000 square metres in size - equivalent to the size of Victoria Square - on York Street and Frederick Street stretching up to North Queen Street.
:: consist of four interlinked buildings at York Street, Frederick Street, and Donegall Street – including aseries of staggered atria along Frederick Street.
:: have a number of entrances on York Street, York Lane, Frederick Street and will reopen York Lane which has been blocked off as an access route to the city centre.
Professor Barnett explained: "While the architecture of this new civic building is important, it is the activity inside it which will ultimately determine the success of this development. Equally important is that the internal structure of the building meets the requirements of 21st century higher education.
"The University believes education is critical to the economy of the city and the region as a whole. By coming into the city centre, we want to bring education closer to the business community by providing a resource on their doorstep where we can explore and develop innovative ideas and exploit global connections.
"However,as a leading widening access institution, we are also keen that this campus will open up educational and career pathways to those people from communities which have tended to shy away from university.
"The University is proud of the educational, cultural and sporting outreach work it has been engaged in with some of the most deprived communities across Northern Ireland and we will over the coming years work with community leaders and political representatives to see how we can build on that success.
"We are also aware that this campus offers an opportunity to rebalance Belfast and reshape the city. We are already working with central and local government as well as political representatives and community leaders to ensure Belfast and Northern Ireland as a whole can take advantage of this opportunity.
"The University knows there will be challenges in the times ahead in ensuring Belfast and Northern Ireland has the right infrastructure in place for a development of this scale. We are working in partnership with Belfast City Council and a number of government departments including the Department for Social Development to ensure that concerns around student housing, car parking and public transport, public realm and community benefit are addressed.
"We have also embarked on a process of engagement with the local community which has already proven fruitful in identifying issues which the University will address. That engagement will continue beyond the construction of this campus because the University wants to be a good neighbour.
"In an open, honest and realistic dialogue, the University will address those issues in its gift but also work with community leaders and political representatives in central and local government to see how wider issues which are not our responsibility can be addressed."
Professor Barnett confirmed the University will formally submit its planning application later this month.
The Ulster plans were welcomed by DEL Minister Stephen Farry, who said:
"Higher Education has a vitally important role to play in growing our economy and this project underlines the University’s commitment to this goal. It is the single largest higher education construction project to be undertaken in Northern Ireland for a long time. The development will bring many benefits beyond the university and will be a welcome boost for our construction industry.
“The expansion of the university demonstrates the University’s commitment to make a major contribution to the economic, social and cultural vitality of the city. One of my Department’s key goals is to widen participation in Higher Education, and engaging with communities will be a key element in the University of Ulster’s development of its Belfast campus.”
The Minister concluded: “I look forward to the development of a new, vibrant city centre campus in Belfast which will make a meaningful difference - not just for the people in this city but for everyone across Northern Ireland.”
The Department for Employment and Learning announced a funding contribution of £16million in March 2010 to support the Belfast campus redevelopment.
Notes for Editors
High resolution architects’ impressions and fly-through movie files of the Belfast City campus can be downloaded from: