The Crown Bar, Belfast

Alan Jones  Architect

I was born and grew up in Northern Ireland and studied Architecture at Queen’s University Belfast. After seven years with Royal Gold Medallists Michael and Patty Hopkins and three years with David Morley Architects, I returned home to contribute to architecture and placemaking by practising and teaching.

As a student, I witnessed new low-cost buildings to counter our damaging Troubles and new road systems that assisted Belfast’s urban and security-driven segregation. I found inspiration in the weather and landscape, in farm buildings and seemingly ad-hoc utilitarian shipyard sheds, rocket-screen protected police stations and the local romantic pragmatism of expressed building services and construction. That interest in how architecture and spaces can be specific to location and time continues to interest me. Both my practice and teaching explore and realise the strangely familiar, activating memory, identity and civic pride.

I regularly reference the listed Crown Bar in Belfast, with its cluster of compact public booths that some would call snugs. They were created at the height of the Victorian age by Italian craftsmen moonlighting from their daily work on the many churches and luxury ships being built in the city. The head-height timber panelling and doors enclose leather cushioned benching illuminated by contemporary gaslighting and daylight through coloured glass. The obscured windows, wooden panels and doors provide privacy from the more public realm beyond, and a call bell allowed for discreet ordering of tea, coffee, or something a little stronger.

For me these are some of our best and smallest public spaces.

Photo: joelaverty-photography.com