Monday 15 October 2018

Hopes historic building can be restored after fire

Most of the interior of the landmark Bank Buildings, which housed the Primark shop, in Belfast has collapsed after the blaze on Tuesday. Photo: Kevin Scott
Most of the interior of the landmark Bank Buildings, which housed the Primark shop, in Belfast has collapsed after the blaze on Tuesday. Photo: Kevin Scott

Cate McCurry

An architect who specialises in the conservation of old buildings has described the challenge in restoring the Primark shop that was destroyed in a major fire, saying the expertise exists.

Much of the interior of the historic Bank Buildings in Belfast collapsed following the fire on Tuesday.

While the fire service says there is "still a risk" of collapse, architect Bronagh Lynch said she hoped it could be salvaged.

Ms Lynch, a conservation architect and member of Royal Society of Ulster Architects, said other buildings that had suffered huge damage had been restored.

The Bank Buildings is one of Belfast architect William Henry Lynn's masterpieces.

The five-storey building is listed and is recognised by the Historic Environment Division in Northern Ireland.

"It's a very significant building to Belfast, and its status is recognised by the fact it's listed by the historic environment," she said.

"There was a much older building on the site and then there was Bank Buildings which is where it got its name; then during the Troubles it was bombed and then completely restored again so its had a checkered history, but it was a very splendid building in the city."

She said that while the scene of the building after the fire looks "tragic and scary", she would not rule out attempts to restore it.

"All of the floors have collapsed and the roof has collapsed, but I would hope it could be salvaged," she added. "It's a big challenge but the expertise exists across the UK. Buildings like these tell the story of the city and how it has developed."

She explained that to restore a building with this type of damage would require specialist engineers to asses the stability.

"There's then a process to help with the restoration and also getting a laser scan of the building which helps to determine if walls are leaning or bulging and that helps us put it back together again."

Irish Independent

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