Waking a Giant
Belfast City Council
Belfast City Hall is the ultimate symbol of civic pride, having been built following the awarding of city status by Queen Victoria in 1888 .
Belfast’s status as a world leader in numerous industries had a far reaching impact, not only for the city but also for the whole province of Ulster and the island of Ireland.
In March 2009, Belfast City Council decided that the newly refurbished City Hall, due to reopen in October 2009, should contain a coffee shop for use by visitors, guests and the general public.
The Council wanted to theme the coffee shop area to enhance the tourism potential of the building and highlight Belfast’s evolution into one of the UK’s foremost industrial cities. The chosen theme focused on the city’s industrial heyday during the 19th and early 20th centuries as a starting point, extending right up to the present day.
The Grade A listed City Hall is one of the most appropriate places to honour the tens of thousands of workers who helped to build Belfast. It provides a tangible and unique link to the city's industrial past.
Tandem were appointed by Belfast City Council in April 2009, and briefed to design an exhibition space that celebrated and illustrated the contribution of ordinary working people to the development of the city.
As the space functioned as both a coffee shop and exhibition space, it was important to strike the right balance, in terms of ambiance, design and spatial composition, between the coffee shop and interpretative exhibition area.
Our goal was to generate an environment that encouraged repeat visits and was complementary to the designated coffee shop space, without detracting away from the atmosphere of the main exhibition.
Our exhibition successfully communicated the theme of ‘the industrialisation of Belfast’ throughout the entire coffee shop space, providing specific points of interest for visitors’ further interaction. Without over-romanticising the period, it celebrated Belfast’s industrial heritage in a respectful but engaging fashion.