The impressive new Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC) adds a world-class visitor destination to Belfast's cathedral quarter. Wienerberger's mellowed red sovereign stock plays a decisive role for the achievment.

Reference object

Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Architect

Hackett Hall McKnight, Belfast

Client

The MAC, Belfast

Facing brick used

Mellowed Red Sovereign Stock facing brick, 65 mm

The MAC, Belfast, Norther Ireland

The MAC, Belfast, Northern Ireland

The MAC, Belfast, Northern Ireland

The MAC, Belfast, Northern Ireland

The MAC, Belfast, Northern Ireland

The MAC, Belfast, Northern Ireland

The MAC, Belfast, Northern Ireland

The MAC, Belfast, Northern Ireland

The MAC, Belfast, Northern Ireland

The MAC, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Award winning brick architecture

The £18 million MAC at St Anne’s Square received double recognition at the Brick Development Association’s 2012 Brick Awards – winning both the Best Public Building prize and the highly coveted Supreme Award. The decisive factor for this success was the interplay of the exposed red brick finish with the glass elements and a basalt cladding. With this external finish, the modern building reflects the surrounding buildings of this grand Victorian merchant city.

Culture reflects heritage

The MAC accommodates a broad range of cultural facilities and is alive with exhibitions, theatre performances, dance shows, and experimental works. Ian McKnight from Hackett Hall McKnight, who were commissioned after winning the international open design competition initiated for this project, said: ‘We sought to create a building that reflects the heritage of the city’s mills and warehouses, not only in its resilience and constructional legibility, but also in its warmth and texture and essential humanity.’

Two defining blocks

‘The project is defined by two brick blocks each with a different expression. The foyer occupies the tall voids between these two forms, a space characterised by light entering from the top and defined by internal elevations of brick and concrete reflecting the typical streetscape of the area. The foyer is dominated along one side by a four-storey wall of brick piers. They act as strong and dramatic element within the foyer and are a main defining moment of the building’, the architects explain their project.
The identical type of brick was used for the building’s exterior: a deep brick wall wraps the public  spaces, forms the ‘cuts’ in the block and continues into the foyer, where it creates an interior ‘urban room’. In addition to an extensive use of structural in-situ concrete, the brick was used as an internal exposed finish. The architects succeeded to establish a relationship between the new MAC and the city’s historic landscape, thus giving the visitors a sense of moving easily from the surrounding streets and the square into the world of the MAC within.

Brick with character

Choosing the right brick was critical to this project. After comprehensive research, the final brick selection was made because its character, texture and warm colour tone were perfect for the MAC and this particular brick resembled the traditional red Belfast brick of the nearby buildings. Mellowed Red Sovereign Stock is part of a range of high quality water-struck bricks available from Wienerberger, which are available in various colours. This attractive water-struck style of brick has been widely used across Ireland for a number of years and is ideally suited to both traditional and contemporary buildings.
Approximately 300,000 Mellowed Red Sovereign Stock facing bricks were used in total, making the construction of the MAC one of the biggest brick construction projects in Belfast in recent years.
The building’s finish is also exceptional in every respect. Its dust-coloured brick walls with horizontal concrete stripes form a cool, lean elevation to the surrounding streets, paying homage to the industrial buildings of Belfast. The red brick, concrete and basalt used for the MAC remind visitors of the city’s rich history while heralding a new cultural future.
 
We aimed to create a buulding, which would with its warmth and texture reflect the heritage of the factories and warehouses of this city.

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