Glamour and Gloom: 1930s Architecture in Belfast


Tanja Poppelreuter

Regular price €20.00

2017, Ulster Architectural Heritage
Paperback, 600 pages

Glamour and Gloom: 1930s Architecture in Belfast is a richly illustrated book which features a selection of modern buildings that together display the architectural variety of the period in the northern metropolis. In his foreword to the publication, renowned Irish architectural critic Shane O’Toole says: ‘Glamour and Gloom contains much new scholarship and is a superb introduction to the surprisingly exotic architecture of Belfast in the 1930s, the decade that can justifiably claim to be the foundation stone of our modern world.’ The book, edited by Dr Tanja Poppelreuter, Lecturer in the History and Theory of Architecture at Ulster University, continues the fine architectural historical publishing tradition of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS).

Buildings featured in Glamour and Gloom include the former Bank of Ireland on Royal Avenue, which was planned at the cusp of the Great Depression and inspired by American skyscrapers so that it displays the aims and aspirations of the architect and the bank towards future wealth and prosperity, as well as the nearby one-time Sinclair’s Department Store with its luxurious façade reflecting the rise of consumerism. The former Woolworth’s Department Store in High Street reverberates with the echoes of ‘Egyptomania’ that that had begun with Howard Carter discovering the tomb of King Tutankhamen.

Also included are studies of 1930s cinemas which housed the new technology that made synchronised sound possible and the new ‘Talkies’ that sparked a cinema boom. The architecture of the new picture palaces epitomised the glamour of Hollywood and offered a distraction from everyday life. Amenities such as telephones, radios and refrigerators that are ubiquitous today, proliferated during the 1930s, while clothing stores such as Burton’s the Tailors provided smart outfits for everyone, and new school buildings improved the primary education of children. All in all, these buildings and structures remind us of a decade during which decisive changes towards a modern way of life took place.

This striking new book will appeal to anyone interested in the history and legacy of the architecture and design of this period in Belfast. With a wealth of excellent photographs and a range of essays and 19 case studies, it provides a valuable insight into twentieth century architectural heritage.