‘Expertise exists’ to restore iconic Primark building

After the fire at Primark's Bank Buildings store in Belfast City centre. Photo Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
After the fire at Primark's Bank Buildings store in Belfast City centre. Photo Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

An architect who specialises in the conservation of old buildings has described the challenge in restoring the Primark shop which was destroyed in a major fire, saying the expertise exists.

Much of the interior of the historic Bank Buildings in Belfast has collapsed following the fire on Tuesday.

While the fire service says there is “still a risk” of collapse, architect Bronagh Lynch, said she hopes it could be salvaged.

Ms Lynch, who is a conservation architect and member of Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA), said other buildings which have suffered huge damage have been restored.

The Bank Buildings is one of Belfast architect William Henry Lynn’s masterpieces.

The five-storey building is listed and is recognised by the Historic Environment Division in Northern Ireland.

“It’s a very significant building to Belfast, and its status is recognised by the fact it’s listed by the historic environment,” she said.

“It’s a very important building to the city.

“There was a much older building on the site and then there was Bank Buildings which is where it got its name, then during the Troubles its was bombed and then completely restored again so its had a checkered history but it was a very splendid building in the city.”

She said that while the scene of the building after the fire looks “tragic and scary”, she would not rule out attempts to restore it.

“All of the floors have collapsed and the roof has collapsed, but I would certainly hope it could be salvaged. There’s a lot of lessons that can be learned from other historic fires like Windsor Castle,” she added.

“It’s a big challenge but the expertise exists across the UK with the right type of consultants.

“Buildings like these are very important, they tell the story of the city and how it has develops.”

She explained that to restore a building with this type of damage would require specialist engineers to asses the stability.

“There’s then a process to help with the restoration and also getting a laser scan of the building which helps to determine if walls are leaning or bulging and that helps us put the building back together again.”