Thea Awards Recipients

Thea Awards 2014

Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement - Visitor Center

Titanic Belfast, Northern Ireland

Image 1/3: Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement - Visitor Center: Titanic Belfast
Image 2/3: Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement - Visitor Center: Titanic Belfast
Image 3/3: Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement - Visitor Center: Titanic Belfast

Titanic Belfast, the World’s Largest Titanic Visitor Experience, opened its doors to the world on 31 March 2012, marking 100 years since the completion of the world’s most famous ocean liner. 

The unique and iconic structure was almost 10 years in the planning, and following its three-year construction period became Belfast’s most famous landmark. Standing at the height of the ship’s superstructure, Titanic Belfast represents a turning point in Northern Ireland’s history, and a reason to visit for people from all over the world. Titanic Belfast is one of Europe’s largest urban regeneration projects.

Having welcomed over 500,000 visitors in just over 5 months from opening, 75,000 over the anticipated annual target, Titanic Belfast now stands at the heart of destination marketing for brand Belfast, brand Northern Ireland and brand Ireland. It is also a symbol of confidence, acting as a popular backdrop for both national and international product launches, events and conferences. Titanic Belfast was designed as a multi-streamed business incorporating the following elements:

  • A nine gallery interpretative visitor experience
  • The Titanic Suites, dedicated conference and banqueting facilities
  • The Andrews Gallery, a dedicated Exhibition gallery
  • Education facilities comprising an education/community room and the Ocean Exploration Centre
  • Bistro 401 and The Galley, themed dedicated eateries

At the heart of Titanic Belfast is a fully immersive exhibition that explores Edwardian Belfast, the city that produced the famous ship, and charts the growth of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, the story of the Titanic, the people who crafted her, the passengers who sailed on her and the scientists who found her. Titanic Belfast not only tells the story of the Titanic, giving visitors the opportunity to look behind the scenes and marvel at the scale of Belfast’s innovation and industry, but seeks to dispel some of the myths and legends about the tragedy. It is a must-see for anyone with an interest in this fascinating story - and a development of which the city can be proud. 

The experience team undertook extensive research and consultation to ensure that the exhibition’s content is rooted firmly in fact, and has appeal for all audiences. Titanic Belfast uses a range of interpretative techniques to bring events to life, with oral testament, film, photographs, archival material and a range of media combined to create an engaging and thought provoking experience. Working with the architects, the Team ensured that the gallery spaces take advantage of the building’s scale and proportion. Throughout the exhibition visitors encounter individuals with stories to tell, many of them Belfast people.

The exhibition and experience combines nine galleries across five floors and includes a unique dark ride tour through the shipyard, a 3D ‘cave’ that allows visitors to walk through the ship, and unique HD footage of the Titanic taken by explorer Robert Ballard after he found the wreck in 1985. 

If numbers could talk, they would surely say that Titanic Belfast has firmly established itself as an attraction and destination worthy of the phrases ‘successful’ and ‘sought after.’ Annual targets, as set out in the pre-opening plan have been exceeded in all key areas including:

  • Retail annual revenue, met 123 days after opening
  • Visitor numbers, met 164 days after opening
  • Conference and Banqueting delegate numbers, met 96 days after opening

“Not another Titanic attraction” and “Hasn’t this story been done already?” seem to be common reactions to the Project name. The response to the first comment is “No, this is not just another Titanic attraction based on James Cameron’s version of the story, this is something quite different.” The answer to the latter question is “No, this story has not been told.” 

This project starts at the very beginning of the Titanic’s journey and takes place in the shipyards where the ship was built. It is a story of the people who built her and the pride within the community her construction built. It is a compelling project architecturally, thematically and experientially. It uses theatrical techniques when and where they are needed to immerse the visitor deeper into this part of the story and respects the larger story that unfolds after the ship sets sail and eventually sinks. 

From the minute they see the building (that is the height of the superstructure of the actual Titanic), the visitor will subconsciously begin to feel the enormity of the undertaking of building a ship of this scale in the early 1900s.

The designs are thoughtful and do not rely on only one or two interpretive techniques, but rather a range of techniques from oral testaments, film, photographs, archival material and a range of media to engage the guests. Each space blends the technology, architecture and theming in a way that keeps the story and guest experience as a priority in the foreground. 

This project embodies beautiful execution, attention to detail, sense of place and time (both in the present and in the past), visual impact, story-telling techniques and community significance.

Award Credits