Kinnaird Street is a short Victorian terraced street in North Belfast. It was originally an affluent part-of-town: a street on an east-west axis that led from the Antrim Road into the former Girdwood Park. In the transformed urban landscape, particularly in North Belfast, the street lost its affluent families, then became mixed-use – residences and offices – and has long since reduced to its current sad state of partial dereliction.
We felt it important to keep a light touch in the fabric of the street – to acknowledge the rough rub of the street edge - to reveal by degrees the openness of the design, and to then offer a view back into the city from the top of the house. An interest in the Corbusian section and a pre-occupation with spatial connections above the layer of the plan shaped the design approach.
The architectural challenge was to radically change the inherent nature of the existing small rooms in the former Victorian houses; to allow connections between people and working, meeting and socialising places, and to provide, in addition to the remodelled working spaces, an event space that could be offered to arts and community organisations to build a new artistic synergy.
The removal of the existing rear returns provided the space in which to create a new south facing courtyard, and increased the amount of light into the heart of the ‘houses’. The removal of two floors and the creation of large openings in the party walls allowed the diagonal internal views and enriched that quality of internal light. The projecting single story event-space, located to one side of the courtyard, created visual connections from the courtyard to its first-floor roof terrace which in turn connects to the first floor studio with its own views down to the entrance, across to the library and meeting room, and up to the second floor studio and ‘crit-space’ in a spiral of connecting working and meeting spaces.