Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Scottish Provident Building

THE SCOTTISH PROVIDENT BUILDING (SPB), Donegall Square West, Belfast, is a grand, symmetrical, multi-bay, sandstone Italianate office block.

This august edifice directly overlooks Belfast City Hall's western facade and the Lord Mayor's official suite of rooms.

It comprises six-storeys over a basement, with an attic-storey; dated 1902, to the designs of Young & Mackenzie.

The building is U-shaped in plan, with a central pedimented bow and chamfered corner elevations surmounted by octagonal domed pavilions.

Retail units are on the ground floor of the building, which was extensively renovated ca 2009.

One of the most prominent buildings in Donegall Square, this large-scaled Victorian commercial edifice displays much sculptural stonework to the facade in addition to its copper roof features.

The neo-Palladian idiom is loosely interpreted with hints of Baroque and art nouveau.

Much historic fabric and detailing survives.

The SPB is undoubtedly one of the most impressive late Victorian or early Edwardian structures in the city by notable local architects, representing the commercial development of the city in its later stages.

The SPB comprises one of two large office blocks built in Donegall Square to the designs of Young and MacKenzie during the late 19th century.

The Royal Linen Warehouse for Robinson & Cleaver was constructed first, on the north of the Square, in 1888, followed by the larger Scottish Provident Institution, built in Donegall Square West between 1897-1902.

This site was previously occupied by the offices and yards of linen merchants and the Donegall/Union Hotel.

The new building was initially occupied by the Scottish Provident Institution, and a number of offices had been leased to other businesses, including the architects Young & MacKenzie.

The ground floor contained a number of commercial units, including McGee & Co, Tailors; Erskine Mayne, bookseller; lantern and photo specialists; and at 8 Wellington Place, J Lizar, which remains there today.

The building continues to function with cafes, shops and restaurants on the ground floor; offices and meeting spaces on the floors above.

This grand Italian-Renaissance-style building was constructed by the builder Robert Corry, to designs prepared by Robert Young of Young and MacKenzie.

Carvings and sculpture were executed by Purdy & Millard; while Ward & Partners created the stained glass in the first floor lobby, which depicts Scottish coat-of-arms.

The ornamental sculpture includes detailed carvings of female heads, representing Scotland, Ireland, England, India, Sudan and Canada.

The central bay, which bows outward, is also adorned with panels depicting the prevalent industries of the day including shipbuilding, rope making and weaving.

During the late 20th century the stonework was restored, a projecting central canopy was added over the Donegall Square entrance, and some statues were removed from the facade.

First published in July, 2014.

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