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Seminar entitled “Losing Belfast”, 24th April 2013, Belfast

This was a joint event organised by the Belfast Buildings Trust and The Belfast Civic Trust. Two of the three keynote speakers are Board members of INTBAU Ireland. The seminar was attended, amongst other dignitaries, by Nelson McCausland, Minister for the Department for Social Development and by Professor James Stevens Curl, PhD (Lond), DiplArch (Oxon), DipTP (Oxon), FSA, FSAScot, AABC, MRIAI, RIBA, FRIAS, MRTPI, author of, as well as many other publications, “The Oxford Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture”.

The talk was introduced by Fionnuala Jay O’Boyle CBE, Director of The Belfast Buildings Trust. Fionnuala is passionate about true beauty in the built environment and the central role that well-loved, crafted, traditional buildings can play in successful and sustainable community regeneration.

David Flinn spoke on behalf of The Belfast Civic Trust. He outlined the growing importance of Belfast’s character buildings (and areas) to the success of Northern Ireland’s tourism industry and, not least, to the spiritual well-being of Belfast’s citizens. David explained how both the modest and the grand red-brick, load-bearing structures of Victorian and Edwardian Belfast, taken together, give the City its specific identity. Numerous examples were given where planning permission has very recently been granted by DOE Planning Service, permitting the destruction of yet more of the City’s stock of aesthetically-pleasing structures.  He also demonstrated how character areas can so easily be eroded by just one or two interventions that seek to contrast as opposed to adopt the core architectural language. New, contrasting additions to a conservation area that make up their own language cannot hope to complement the existing character that defines the conservation area in the first place. He concluded by looking at possible new uses for some of the City’s loveliest buildings that have unfortunately been vacated or are under-used. One example given was the ‘Old’ Belfast Tech building which has been left abandoned following the government decision to relocate this entire place of learning to the Titanic area.

Shane Quinn, speaking on behalf of the Belfast Building’s Trust, explained how a truly world-class approach to developing cities starts with protecting and re-using the attractive heritage buildings that both citizens and visitors love to be in and around. He also outlined that real and meaningful sustainability in the world of development is by no means straightforward – it involves complex and, yes, messy partnerships made up of community participation, public sector support and private enterprise. Community involvement is essential in the creation of permanent places as a ‘bottom-up’ culture will tend to sustain itself. He showed, by referring to examples elsewhere, how the restoration and re-use of the beautiful and the crafted has served to ignite regeneration, resulting in the flowering of centres that have attracted life and created dynamic and lasting environments. All of the examples of successful place-making shown were not designed overnight nor based on abstracted, highly marketed, and so-called ‘iconic’ forms. Instead, the examples demonstrated how historic buildings and spaces, because they are invested with the skills and crafts of generations, entice and bewitch people in an effortless way. To ignore this enormous community and cultural capital by allowing historic buildings to lie derelict, or worse still to permit their demolition, is nothing short of irrational.

The seminar was important in that it underpinned the critical importance of the role of Belfast’s heritage in how it can make the City a happier and nicer place for its people. It also stressed how Belfast can perform and indeed survive economically in a competitive international tourism market. The message is that a Belfast that is confident in and proud of its heritage will naturally attract visitors. To this end, we must look to the long term and stop demolishing our heritage for the sake of creating temporary construction jobs. The most recent example of this practice is Planning Service’s decision to permit the demolition of the Orpheus building in York Street. Also, we must resist creating buildings that have no connection with Belfast, or buildings that claim to be about Belfast but in reality can be found anywhere and everywhere in the world today – these are not lasting and sustainable attractors. Finally, care must be taken that terminology such as “world class” (much used by our leaders when describing how our built environment should develop) does not result in the creation of a standardised, globalised environment in Belfast. “World class” can only be meaningful to our collective psyche and to visitors internationally if it is understood to be “Our class”.

John Smylie, MICTP, RIBA


Pictures Below: 

(Top) The Orpheus, University of Ulster, Belfast  - BEFORE (NOW)

(Bottom) The Orpheus, University of Ulster, Belfast - AFTER (2015/16)
























Dear friends,

I have had another eventful year of networking, meetings, study trips and events and 2013 promises to be even more interesting. Trying to keep up with the day job, which because of the recession has got even busier i.e.; the plastic and reconstructive surgery on our existing state buildings as we cannot afford to build any new ones! This, together with trying to keep up with repairs to our crumbling Georgian mill owner’s house has at times prevented me from being more active in INTBAU Ireland. And yet it was an action packed year all the same.

My first task early in the new year was to post videos of Christopher Alexander’s wonderful presentation at the Urban Design Group on You Tube and to await with much anticipation the publication of his book, which is expected to become a seminal publication on architecture, entitled “The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth”.

Also in January we welcomed Lisa Cullen’s appointment as INTBAU Development Officer. Lisa has family in Co Wexford so the Irish connection with INTBAU is getting stronger.

February brought news of very special events - held in London at the end of April and beginning of May to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the founding of INTBAU. This included a meeting of the International College of Chapters, a conference entitled “Traditional Architecture in the New Age of Austerity” and a reception and exhibition at Clarence House generously hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales.

Also, in February, myself, Edward Byrne and Geraldine Walsh attended a conference of the Irish Landmark Trust with a theme of “Challenging Times: Innovations and Opportunities”.

In March we held our first board meeting of the year in Belfast. We decided to hold our first INTBAU Ireland seminar at Queens University the following month entitled “Building Traditions in an Age of Uncertainty” Indeed “Austerity” and “Uncertainty” seem to be the new buzz words in these recessionary times!

Later in March it was off to Sicily to continue my explorations of this Island following on from the wonderful INTBAU Italy/USA study trip of the previous September. Many thanks Giuseppe Amoroso for the wonderful introduction, so naturally I had to bring my other half this time. There is in fact two Sicilies; the north western more Arabic influence and the South Eastern more Greek.

On April 25th we held our seminar in Queen’s University to a packed out lecture hall at which Ed Byrne, David Flinn and John Smylie gave wonderful presentations to an audience of young architectural and planning students. Many thanks to our board member Dr. Mohamed Gamal, Lecturer in Architecture, for his assistance in organizing this event.

Two days later it was back up to the North for an event at Armagh Observatory entitled “Opening Doors to the Future; Regenerating our Past - Building New Opportunities” organised by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency in partnership with Armagh City and District Council and the Prince’s Regeneration Trust. OurBoard member John Smylie who had been appointed the Northern Ireland representative for the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community gave one of the presentations. I was wondering what all the security was about and I soon found out when later HRH The Prince of Wales arrived and mingled with the attendees in a very relaxed way, holding a cup of tea!

The following Monday was an early start from Dublin to London for the highlight of the year; the special events to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the foundation of INTBAU.

First off was the conference “Traditional Architecture in the New Age of Austerity” at the wonderful London Headquarters of Notre Dame University and a chance to meet my fellow Chapter heads. John Smylie and Joe Drew also attended and together we made a formidable troika from Ireland North and South. A full report is on the INTBAU website.

Next day saw us arriving at Clarence House for the special reception to mark the 10th anniversary of foundation of INTBAU. HRH appeared well informed about the problem of “Ghost Estates” in Ireland after the crash of the “Celtic Tiger”. Turning to Michael Mehaffy from the USA beside me, HRH quizzed him on Christopher Alexander and when his new book was coming out. Mike is an old colleague of Chris’s and arranged a conference in his honour at the Princes Foundation in 2004, my first introduction to INTBAU

In the afternoon we had our International College of Chapters meeting at the Art Worker’s Guild in Queen’s Square. When the discussion finally came around to the venue for the next international meeting, both Cuba and Cyprus were very keen and put forward detailed proposals. As a compromise I suggested Ireland but since then the College of Chapters have voted for Cyprus, which, thank goodness, relieves us of the responsibility for another year. I am very much looking forward to Cyprus in early May.

On Wednesday I made an all too short visit to Poundbury for a final lunch and tour. The town is of an exceptionally high quality in construction and design, an inspiration. Can’t wait until Queen Mother’s Square is completed!

Back home the following week I attended an Historic Building and Conservation Seminar led by structural engineer John Addison at the Dublin Civic Trust, which our board member Geraldine Walsh runs. The title of the seminar was, you’ve guessed it, “The Luxury of Austerity”

In June I clocked up more air miles with a visit to Oxford University for a conference on “Spatial Perspectives: Literature and Architecture, 1850 – Present”. Peter Kellow INTBAU Academician presented one of the papers and I had a good chat with him afterwards. My most surprising meeting was with one Harry Charrington, a professor of architecture from Bath, who it turned out was very familiar with Ireland. On our way back to the station he told me of a wonderful summer holiday he had, aged ten, in a somewhat dilapidated Georgian Mill House in my hometown Thomastown. Yes, this is the same mill owner’s house that is your chairman’s endless busman’s holiday!

The first official recognition of INTBAU Ireland in the south came in July when my friend Colm Murray of the Irish Heritage Council invited me to participate in a “Colloquium on Building Conservation Training Provision” at their Headquarters in Kilkenny. Our own board member Edward Byrne is at the forefront of such training in Ireland and holds regular seminars at the Traditional Lime Works in Co Carlow.

We held our second board meeting of the year at the Dublin Civic Trust Offices on the 20th of July, which although in the middle of the holiday season we still had a workable quorum and representation from both parts of the Island.

In August, yet more air miles took me to Lucca Italy for a workshop called “Around The Walls” held by my old friends from last year’s trip to Sicily: Flora, Valentina, Julia and Anthony. I ended up being one of the guest lecturers although all of us were students as well and participated in the final exhibition opened by the Mayor of Lucca.

On the last day I made a quick trip to the Venice Architecture Biennale in the company of Anthony Latino (USA), Julia Kryazheva (Holland) and Gennie Galaktionova, a Russian architect who lives in on of those famous Stalinist wedding-cake apartment buildings in Moscow. I am looking forward to the next Russian INTBAU event!

Brian Ridout, the world expert on Dry Rot, gave a wonderful seminar at the Dublin Civic Trust courtesy of Geraldine Walsh and this was followed later in the month by an equally wonderful presentation by structural engineer Ian Hume of English Heritage.

On the weekend of the 13th and 14th of October I attended the Traditional Building and Conservation skills in Action Exhibition 2012 at Kilkenny Castle in which our board member Edward Byrne’s Traditional Lime Company had a stand and presented one of the papers. The Exhibition organised by our friends in the Irish Georgian Society and sponsored by Kilkenny Council and my organisation, the Office of Public Works, opened by OPW Minister Brian Hayes.

We held our third board meeting of the year at Queen’s University the following Friday where Mohammad Gemal had arranged a fine room in the Lanyon Building.

The big event for me in November was the arrival from Amazon of Chris Alexander’s wonderful new book, the one that both HRH and I have been waiting for all year!

Entitled “The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth (A Struggle Between Two World-Systems). I heartily recommend it to you all. I was delighted to see it displayed in Hodges Figgis, the famous and largest Dublin Bookseller who have also stocked continuously his earlier “A Pattern Language”. Christopher Alexander is fundamentally the reason I joined INTBAU. The book outlines his trials and tribulations in the construction of his masterpiece; the Eishen Campus in Japan.

So to wrap up for 2013 we have:


  1. A new president of the International College of Chapters; Dependra Prashad from INTBAU India
  2. A new Spanish chapter of INTBAU. Javier Cenicacelaya will act as the Chapter Chair; Alejandro Garcia Hermida will act as Deputy Chapter Chair; and Pablo Alvarez Funes will act as Chapter Representative tio the ICC.
  3. The location for the International Chapter meeting is Cyprus in early May.
  4. London will host the 'Built by Hand' exhibitions and seminars at the end of January, which I will be attending.
  5. Two wonderful Facebook pages you should check out are Architecture of Ireland and Architecture MMXII.


Kindest regards and wishes for a prosperous New Year from

Brian Hamilton

Chairman INTBAU Ireland Chapter.




An Irish visitor to China has sent us this photograph of a new opera house in Guangzhou. It was completed just over a year ago.

In an article published on 28th February 2011 in the Guardian newspaper, the building was praised by an architecture critic. He wrote: "The world's most spectacular opera house has just opened in China... (it) reveals itself in all its complexity, at once highly theatrical and insistently subtle".

Interestingly, the critic also stated in the article: "There's no question, though, that the opera house is best experienced at night."!





INTBAU-Ireland Board members were honoured to attend a special reception to mark INTBAU's 10th anniversary, hosted by INTBAU’s Patron, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.

Prior to the special reception, Brian Hamilton (Chairman), Joe Drew (Treasurer) and John Smylie represented the Irish Chapter at INTBAU's 2012 international conference in London entitled "Architecture in the Age of Austerity".

Former INTBAU-Ireland Chairman, current Treasurer and founding member of INTBAU-Ireland, Joe Drew, at the special reception.


INTBAU Ireland Chairman, Brian Hamilton, addresses the panel which included the Rt Hon Lord Lamont.




Chairman of INTBAU Ireland, Brian Hamilton, would like to thank Professor Wei Sha and Dr. Mohammed Gamal Abdelmonem for welcoming INTBAU Ireland to Queen's. INTBAU Ireland is delighted to report a fantastic turnout for its first annual seminar - over 150 attendees!