Smithfield Yard: A distinctively ‘Belfast’ workplace and retail development designed around a new public space that supports flexible working environments

Detailed planning approval has been granted for Smithfield Yard, a 167,000 sq.ft mixed-use development in Central Belfast for three new exemplar ‘Grade A’ and SME workspace buildings, arranged around The Yard – a new area of public realm.

FCBStudios have developed designs for Bywater Properties and Ashmour Development NI that reimagine a future for the Smithfield area.  By creatively integrating an existing listed building into a series of buildings of various scales and cladding materials the grain of the city is re-established where it is currently eroded. Smithfield Yard provides a mix of retail and workspaces that will support local economies and business within the historic Smithfield Market area and provide vibrant activity to the surrounding streets.

The North building is the largest of the three buildings, providing 112,000 sq.ft of Grade A office accommodation over 8 floors with amenity roof terraces, cycle storage and shower facilities.  The ground floor’s spacious foyer is animated by retail units, maker spaces and a café arranged around an arcade providing access to the central Yard. The building form reflects Belfast’s industrial heritage but is designed to meet modern business needs with efficient floor plates and resilient IT infrastructure.  The North building is a steel framed building clad in a combination of brick and pigmented, sculpturally formed precast concrete. The scheme provides excellent natural light and a robust thermal envelope resulting in a low energy building required to meet BREEAM Excellent energy targets.

The Gresham building is a 5 storey office block providing 32,500 sq.ft of Grade A office accommodation over 4 floors with ground floor units supporting smaller retail/F+B units fronting onto Gresham Street and the central Yard. Finished in brick, the building has been designed to re-establish the lost street frontage and knit into the adjacent terraces. It provides excellent floor-to-ceiling heights and a floor-plate size that is readily sub-divisible, offering a more intimate, modern office. The anticipation is that the Gresham building will facilitate “right-sized” office space for growing indigenous Belfast businesses or smaller international companies that are keen to co-locate with larger corporates in the North building.

The Sawtooth Building, the smallest development at 5,000 sq.ft over three storeys, is clad in zinc and has a distinctive ‘sawtooth’ roof, referencing the shed buildings that characterised industrial Belfast’s backlands throughout much of its history. This also serves to bring north light deep into the building on the upper floor. This creative office accommodation will offer a potential home to a diverse tenant mix including start-ups and creative entrepreneurs.

The Gresham and Sawtooth buildings share a common entrance foyer which will spill out into The Yard ensuring that there is activity at the heart of the development. The open space at the centre of the development is connected to Gresham and Winetavern Streets through a series of lanes while building lobbies act as additional through routes between streets and The Yard.

Sam Tyler, Partner, FCBStudios said

“Smithfield Yard will create ‘an ecosystem of workplaces’ from large grade A office to informal co-working spaces.  Coupled with retail at the lower floors the workplace development will support local economies and businesses, authentic to Belfast and linked together with new lanes and yards appropriate to the grain of the city.”

The development includes the refurbishment of a Grade B1 listed former ‘Butcher’s Building’ into a series of smaller workspaces and social areas. This involves reinstating the building’s architectural features; staircases, cornices, mouldings and a series of roof lights in an effort to re-establish its original character. Traces of alterations and additions that have been made throughout the years will be removed to re-open the original plan and form an important cornerstone and gateway to the scheme.

In keeping the heritage buildings, the design not only retains the embodied carbon of the existing building stock but keeps the history and character of the area at the forefront. The new build elements are a contemporary intervention into the cityscape, operationally low energy and designed to have a long, flexible life that can respond to evolving trends.

The development of this surface level car park and surrounding buildings is one of the key sites within the 2019 Belfast Inner Northwest Masterplan prepared by FCBStudios for Belfast City Council. The masterplan, covering 17.2 hectares in the centre of the city promotes mixed-use neighbourhoods, the integration of a coordinated and high-quality public realm, permeability into and across the city, and social inclusion.

For more information