Derelict Belfast Building to Become Bustling Art Hub

It will house the Royal Ulster Academy.

Riddel’s Warehouse, in Belfast city center Photo via: Future Belfast
Riddel’s Warehouse, in Belfast city center
Photo via: Future Belfast

A listed Victorian building in Belfast city center is set to become the new home of the Royal Ulster Academy. It was saved from dereliction by a charity specialized in rehabilitating important buildings at risk of being lost, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

The rescued building, known as Riddel’s Warehouse, was built in 1867 and was one of the largest ironmongery warehouses in Ireland. It fell into disuse after changing hands in the 1960s, its demolition only prevented thanks to its listed status.

Riddel’s Warehouse was put up for sale in November 2013 and the £500,000 transaction was completed last March, although the plans for the building have only been announced this week.

The buyer is Hearth Revolving Fund, a preservation trust established in 1972 with the aim of acquiring and rehabilitating listed buildings at risk of dereliction. The charity now has to raise up to £3 million to restore the once-splendid Victorian façade, cast iron galleries, and glazed central atrium.

Northern Ireland’s Largest Open Art Exhibit

Once the building is reconditioned, it will become the new premises of the Royal Ulster Academy, which hosts the Annual Exhibition—Northern Ireland’s largest open art exhibit—and showcases the work of Northern Irish artists past and present.

“I knew the Academy was looking for a permanent home, I knew that it hosted the biggest art exhibition in the province […] and it just seemed like the perfect fit,” Marcus Patton, director of Hearth Revolving Fund, told the Belfast Telegraph. “The Academy will just be one user, there will be groups of artists who will use the building for studio space and of course we want this to be a big tourist attraction,” he continued.

The president of the Royal Ulster Academy, Colin Davidson, is already making plans for the future Academy, which is currently located in a much more unassuming premises on Belfast’s High Street. “It means that we will be in a position to give the general public the chance to view our Diploma Collection, which is an important collection of work by our members over many years and represents a compact history of art in Northern Ireland,” he enthused.

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