The Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast

The MAC is one of Europe’s leading art centres.

Situated in the heart of Belfast’s bustling Cathedral Quarter, right behind Saint Anne’s Cathedral, the MAC houses three art galleries, two theatres, a bar/restaurant, family room and multiple rehearsal and office spaces, the venue has welcomed some 800,000 visitors since it opened.

Designed by architects Hackett Hall McKnight & has won or been nominated for numerous building awards including the CEF, RIBA National Award, the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture & Museum of the Year.

The centre is the key cultural element in the regeneration of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, historically the Merchant City of Belfast.

Wedged between two existing buildings on a hemmed-in corner plot, a glazed tower sits atop the volcanic stone facade to create a beacon that registers the building on the wider city skyline above the surrounding rooftops.

The solidity and substance of this tower offers a contrast to the ‘pattern book’ pastiche of the square, conferring a sense of age and permanence to the space that engages with the pre-existing street network.

Internally A long and narrow atrium divides the building into two halves and is surrounded by walls of exposed concrete and brickwork. The use of local basalt stone cladding for this element of the project asserts the civic significance of this new cultural venue for the city.

Skylights bring natural light down into the seven-storey space, where balconies accommodate cafe and bar areas with an auditorium located on either side of the foyer, while dance studios and exhibition galleries fill the floors above and below.