History of the Mac Theatre in Belfast
The Mac Theatre Belfast immediately jumps out to those who pass it by as a truly unique building, and it certainly has an interesting history behind it. It was designed by Hackett Hall McKnight who won the commission following a competition to build on the site. If the centre looks wedged in between two buildings, this is due to the fact that in reality, it is. However, the small space will seem anything but small, once visitors step inside of the Mac Theatre, which is full of wide open spaces, clever architectural pillars, open balconies, and stacked building textures.
Inspiration from Traditional Belfast
According to Hackett Hall McKnight, the design was created using inspiration from Belfast’s well-known mill buildings and traditional warehouses. The aim was to have it fit into the city centre just as much as it stands out, and the result is a visual masterpiece. It’s hard to miss the glazed tower that leans over the city or the volcanic stone façade that makes up the actual structure of the building. The modern asymmetrical design immediately captures visitors’ attention, but any sharpness portrayed by the architecture is absorbed by the artistic design that awaits inside.
The foyer is a glazed and open space that seems to loom above, with auditoriums located on both sides. Exhibition galleries fill many floors above the entrance, along with dance studios. Basalt stone that was locally sourced makes up the ceilings and walls of the building and helps contrast against the sleek cement flooring. The red brick towers contrast sharply against the modern black railings and point to the power of simple and sleek construction. The performance space echoes this feeling with soft plush red stadium seats which really do pop out against a sleek concrete background, and stark iron clad lighting elements.
One of the reasons the MAC was built to be very noticeable was to add to the Belfast skyline in the Cathedral Quarter, which is partly composed of old merchant buildings. The tower of the MAC theatre offers substance and solidarity to the skyline and stands out against the square where all of the brick buildings create a pattern. By interrupting the pattern, the MAC centre stands out as the cultural centre and a symbol of Belfast’s ongoing rejuvenation. The fact that the building clearly pays tribute to Ulster only helps validate its membership in the Northern Ireland skyline.