Coloured concrete and granite convey a sense of permanence at Hall McKnight’s bus station at Colin Town in West Belfast
Hall McKnight’s £2.4m Colin Connect transport hub and town square are the first components to emerge within a masterplan that anticipates the significant regeneration of part of west Belfast. The building forms the terminus of a new city-wide rapid transit system, but is designed to also act as a focus around which the masterplan will proceed. The public space is envisaged as the location for local community events.
The site plan comprises two granite squares of equal dimensions. One forms the new public space and the second provides the ground plane for the building. The architect adopted this simple geometrical device as a response to the lack of an immediate context – the site was located in a problematic ‘no man’s land’ between two neighbourhoods that reflect Belfast’s historic divisions. Given this nebulous physical context, the two squares provided a discipline around which to articulate the programme.
A new road marks the southern boundary of the site and provides a turning head for the buses. The building is carved with curved excisions to the north and west elevations where it faces the public square and the main road. The interior of the building is made with in situ concrete with a red/terracotta pigment chosen to evoke the tones of Victorian brickwork that defines Belfast’s historic centre a few miles distant. Two large windows protrude from the red interior and present themselves to the main public elevations: a tall window to the new square, and a raised horizontal window to the main road and parkland on the opposite side.
Despite its modest dimensions, the building is designed to offer a sense of robust permanence and civic identity at the outset of the masterplan’s development. Hall McKnight’s intention was to “establish a determined character derived from visible construction of heavy materials in the hope that such values might inform future development of the adjoining sites”.
In situ concrete provides a robust internal self-finish to the bus station, its visceral pigmentation intended to evoke Belfast’s characteristic red brickwork
The project is seen in terms of an interplay between the two heavy materials from which it is constructed. The in situ concrete structure, distinguished by the terracotta-coloured pigment where it is visible – provides a generous public room or concourse. The brick-coloured interior might be seen as an inversion of Belfast’s red-brick fabric, suggests the architect, which typically characterises its terraced streets but was rarely used as an interior finish.
The exterior is clad in honed granite – a stone carapace placed over the concrete structure intended to imbue a sense of civic presence. “The granite walls establish a level of material ambition and quality at the outset of the area’s regeneration”, says the architect.