21st July 2016

Mew Light On The Horizon For East Belfast


Mew Island lighthouse Optic will have a bright future as the ‘iconic gateway’ to Belfast Waterfront, with the appointment of local Architects Hall McKnight and support from East Belfast Councillors.

Titanic Foundation announced today that Hall McKnight, a Belfast & London based Architectural Practice, have been named the winners of a competition to design a structure to house a 130 year old lighthouse optic.  The firm was chosen ahead of 11 contestants to create an iconic structure to protect, preserve and provide public access to the Mew Island Lighthouse Optic, which will be located in Titanic Quarter.

The competition was organised in partnership with the Royal Society of Ulster Architects, who provided advice and guidance to help Titanic Foundation run a high profile design competition, putting design quality to the fore for the project. The competition received a great response with 12 prestigious International firms submitting proposals.

Ciarán Fox, Director, Royal Society of Ulster Architects commented, “The approach taken to appoint the architect for this project allowed the client to see a wonderful range of creative ideas. The focus was on design quality and the ability to see the project through from concept to delivery. What we build tends to be with us for a long time so getting the design right at the front end is an investment which pays for itself many times over. We hope that this project can add to Belfast’s cultural landscape for generations to come.”

Over the last year, Titanic Foundation and the Commissioners of Irish Lights have been awarded a first-round pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund for saving, restoring and displaying the old optic from Mew Island Lighthouse, which is a very rare hyper radial Fresnel lens, possibly the largest of its kind ever constructed. This award, along with early support from Ulster Garden Villages, and more recently a commitment, in principle, of £85,000 from Belfast

City Council’s Local Investment Fund will allow the project to progress to the second stage of the HLF application process. The optic which is 130 years old, seven metres tall and weighs approximately 10 tonnes is a unique heritage object with significance to Belfast’s economic, maritime and industrial past. The optic will be restored and housed in a new interpretive structure, designed to last for 100 years and made to resemble a lighthouse lantern room where it will add a remarkable element to the Titanic Quarter public realm. It is estimated that at least 100,000 visitors per annum will view the optic. With free public access it will tell the story of lighthouses, their technological development, their light keepers, and their role in the proud maritime & industrial heritage of Belfast and Ulster.

Titanic Foundation’s Chief Executive, Kerrie Sweeney, said: “Hall McKnight really captured the beauty of Mew Island optic. It’s an amazing piece of scientific heritage and requires a design that allows the optic to be appreciated visually and intellectually, near and far. It was a very competitive process and we were thrilled by the response. I’m delighted that Hall McKnight & Belfast City Council are both now on board to deliver the new landmark for Belfast’s waterfront”.

The winning firm Hall McKnight, said:” Hall McKnight are delighted to have won this design contest. We are excited by the opportunity to help the public and visitors to engage with the valuable marine heritage of Belfast, and hope that our proposals will allow the craftsmanship and beauty of this unique object to be clearly presented to a new audience”.

Mew Island lighthouse, on the outermost of the Copeland Islands, is one of the tallest lighthouses in Ireland. It is an important Aid to Navigation at the southern entrance to Belfast Lough, built at a time when Belfast was the world-centre of linen, ship-building and rope-making, and one of the most important ports in the World. The lighthouse has recently been modernised, reducing its operational footprint and converting it to solar power. The optic is the internal apparatus which gave Mew Island Lighthouse its traditional revolving light.

An exhibition of the 12 design entries will be showcased over the coming months. For further information visit titanic-foundation.org.