On 27 March 2012 a new public artwork was unveiled in front of the soon-to-be-opened Titanic Belfast building, constructed in a disused part of the Harland and Wolff shipyard on Queens Island in Belfast. The genesis of Titanic Belfast began with the identification of the need for a Titanic Signature Project, designed to support the growth and development of tourism in the city.
Construction of the landmark building began in May 2009. Its form combines elements of a water crystal cluster, an iceberg, the White Star Line “star” symbol and the bows of ships, based around a floor plan inspired by a compass rose. The building is clad in glass and aluminium plates “echoing waves and ice”.
The building houses nine galleries spread throughout its 14,000 square metres of floor space, topped with a banqueting suite with a recreation of the Titanic’s first class grand staircase. Outside the building are a number of public art installations, notably “Titanica” by Dublin born sculptor Rowan Gillespie.
Speaking about the work to InsideIreland.ie, Gillespie says he spent “12 months working on the sculpture and it is a real honour to have my work displayed in front of Titanic Belfast, one of the most impressive architectural designs in Europe” and that he “was so inspired by the stunning architecture and the energy of the development and the construction working there that I was moved to make something special for the area”.
The sculpture is the form of a diving female figure. The figure is mounted atop a slender base, and takes its inspiration from the traditional female ship figureheads mounted on the prows of sailing ships. The figure represents “hope and positivity”. Cast in bronze, “Titanica” is a life-size figure and weighs three-quarters of a ton.
Nearby is a large steel sign, mounted into the pavement with cut-out letters spelling the name “Titanic”. Made in Northern Ireland from 2.5 centimetre thick steel plate, the sign weighs 16 tonnes, the same weight as the forward anchor carried on her f’o’csle deck.