Welcome to Open House Belfast

Open House Belfast is our biggest celebration of architecture in the city.

The festival allows you to explore places you’d never think of going, from newly finished radio stations and rooftop gardens, to a 16 acre derelict site that is about to be redeveloped. Be amazed at the new and old as you drop in to one of our open events or book onto our bespoke tours to uncover exciting new plans for the future of Belfast.

Buildings features newly completed projects such as Raidió Fáilte by ARdMackel and McGurk Architects whilst nodding to the past with events such as Barrie Todd’s tour marking The Birth of the Cathedral Quarter.

Open Offices lets you get behind the scenes with architects working in the city.

Engineering celebrates the 200th anniversary year of the Institute of Civil Engineers with tours of amazing spaces including the iconic Harland & Wolff dry dock.

Open Studios partners with Visual Artists Ireland to open the doors of artists studios across Belfast

Special Events are unique opportunities to learn more about how architecture shapes Belfast.

We’re delighted to partner with Belfast International Arts Festival to schedule a series of architecture events inspired by the Venice Biennale, thanks to support from the British Council.

Thanks also to our regular sponsors, Arup and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and our benefactor Andrew McManus, for making the festival possible this year.

We appreciate the support and the countless hours of behind the scenes support from all our partners, volunteers and from you. This is your city. We hope you enjoy!

Amberlea Neely (Acting Director), Conor McCafferty (Creative Producer) and the team at PLACE

Who is PLACE?

PLACE is an independent not-for-profit organisation. It was founded in 2004 to connect place with people and people with place.

PLACE is dedicated to promoting an understanding of built environment issues across all sectors, and to meaningful engagement with the public on the issues that affect them.

We believe that thoughtful interventions, whatever the scale, can make big differences.

Find out more at placeni.org

Notes from our Sponsors and Supporters

Actor and playwright Joe Tomelty once described the city of Belfast as full of “little houses but not little people”. Many of the streets he described have long since disappeared, but it remains the case that our built environment shapes us, as people and as communities. How we interact with the buildings in which we live and work, how we navigate the cityscape as we go about our daily business, all make a deep and lasting impression. So we should, as stakeholders, be involved in celebrating what is good and challenging what is bad or even mediocre.

PLACE – as champions of best practice in architecture, planning and urban design – bridge a gap between planners, local government, engineers, designers and developers, encouraging creative and inclusive solutions to the design of our city, as well as engaging the public with the professionals to promote awareness and stimulate wider debate.

Open House Belfast 2018 offers us a tremendous opportunity to explore the best of Belfast’s architecture and built heritage. For one weekend in October, we are granted access to many of our most interesting, influential and inspiring buildings and spaces, with free tours, expert commentary, public discussions, performances and special festival events. An exciting addition to this year’s programme is the inclusion of Belfast Open Studios, with artists opening the doors to their studios to give people a rare insight into the inner workings of an artist’s studio.

The Arts Council, as principal funder, is proud to support PLACE in all aspects of its work, as it creates important opportunities for all of us to become more closely connected to the places that shape our lives. I hope you enjoy an enlightening, curiosity-satisfying experience at this year’s Open House Belfast.

Roisin McDonough
Chief Executive,
Arts Council of Northern Ireland

The Open House festival is a celebration of the built environment in all its forms. As the festival enters its fourth year in Belfast, it continues to promote public engagement in those places we value most within our city.

At Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, much of our success is dependent on creative collaboration, both internally within our open studio culture, and externally with our clients, consultants and contractors. In recent years, this ethos of collaboration has been evident in our ongoing relationship with PLACE and the Open House Festival.

We are delighted to have the opportunity to continue our sponsorship and are excited to take part in this year’s events.

Sam Tyler, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Arup is a global leader in engineering, infrastructure design, and professional services for the built environment. Our Northern Irish business was founded in 2000 and our near-100 strong team of planners, project managers, engineers, transport specialists and sustainability consultants are building a reputation – project by project – as leaders in their fields.

Our project portfolio includes Belfast Transport Hub, Connswater Community Greenway, a new masterplan for Belfast’s East Bank, a range of transport and water infrastructure projects as well as building engineering work that involves the transformation of historic buildings.

An employee owned business, Arup staff work collaboratively with clients to deliver work of the highest possible quality.

Erin Gill, Arup

Civil engineers build our roads and structures, supply us with water and energy, protect us from flooding and manage our waste. They create the infrastructure that makes Belfast a great city in which to live, work and play.

Open House Belfast is the chance to examine and admire these structures, places and spaces which embody the city’s distinctive character. The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is proud to support Open House Belfast and its celebration of this wonderful city.

2018 also happens to be ICE’s 200th anniversary, and we hope that the festival will show you how civil engineers have shaped Belfast’s history and transformed the lives of people living here.

Richard Kirk, Institution of Civil Engineers

The British Council is delighted to work with PLACE this year in supporting the Open House Festival 2018 programme at the Belfast International Arts Festival.

We are working with Northern Ireland, Ireland and UK architecture professionals who have presented work within the world’s most important Biennale in Architecture, the Venice Biennale and will connect to conversations around Freespace themes explored by Dublin’s Venice Biennale Curators, Grafton Architects at the MAC.

The British Council has also supported Queens and Ulster University student placements as part of our Venice Fellowships schemes at the British Pavilion this year and we will open our own offices at the iconic Boat Building, Queens Square, Belfast to Open House audiences within a featured programme of visits celebrating contemporary Belfast architecture and heritage buildings.

Don’t miss highlights including Artists-in-Residence, the Hive Choir transforming architecture in song along the way and the exceptional Open House podcast conversations series on the challenges we face in an ever-changing Belfast.

Colette Norwood, British Council

Perspective is the journal of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects and its aim is to spread the word on great architecture and great design.

What could be better than a festival celebrating some of the outstanding buildings which we have in our city? Now in its fourth year, it is also fantastic to see the Open House Belfast Festival go from strength to strength. We’re right behind it.

Chris Sherry, Perspective Magazine

Our health, happiness, wealth and identity are closely connected to how the structures and spaces or our city are designed. Yet the architecture of Belfast is easily overlooked.

Open House Belfast is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the city’s built environment, to discover it and enjoy it.

RSUA wholeheartedly supports this wonderful festival which reveals the architectural treasures that we have and makes us think about the future development of Belfast.

RSUA is the professional body for architects in Northern Ireland and is focused on promoting architecture that enhances life in the region.

Ciarán Fox, RSUA

How to Book

To book for any of the guided tours or special events please visit the event page and use the EventBrite link to book your tickets. The bookings will go live on 12th October please follow us on Facebook to stay up to date.

The tours and events are free of charge but our numbers are limited, therefore please book only what you know you will need and also let us know in good time if you cannot make the event.


Booking for guided visits is essential. As many of the buildings are still under construction or have been empty for a while, numbers on each tour vary and are limited. We have indicated which visits and events are most family friendly.

We are committed to making this weekend as accessible as possible for everyone, we have noted general accessibility info for each building but if you have any additional special requirements please let us know when planning or booking your visit and we will do our very best to accommodate.

Please be aware that there could be changes to access times and venue info, so do keep an eye on our website for up to date information, or join us on Facebook and Twitter.