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MAC Building shows signs of defects after just 3 years

The Metropolitan Arts Centre in Belfast has shown signs of defects on its facade just 3 years after the building opened.

Belfast’s newest arts venue opened its doors to the public in 2013 and cost more than £17m to build, but now large sections of the basalt stone tiles used to clad the exterior of the building have started to fall off.

Problems with the basalt cladding were originally spotted towards the end of 2014 and netting was put up around the building to protect visitors and pedestrians walking in St Anne's Square in the bustling Cathedral Quarter of the city.

The six storey venue that offers the public two theatres, three art galleries, a dance studio, cafe and a bar was designed by Hackett Hall McKnight Architects in a construction that involved the use of Belfast brick and Antrim basalt.

The venue which claims 'One visit and you’ll discover that the MAC has something for all ages and interests.' now faces a battle to secure funding to carry out the repair work.

It has been estimated that public money of up to £1m may be needed to carry out the external stonework repairs and it has been claimed the MAC may have to close if repair work is not carried out.

However chair of the MAC board Joe O'Neill believes that the centre can remain open to the public during any building repair work. The chairman also confirmed that the centre would be seeking help to fund the repair bill.

The MAC's main source of funding has come from the DCAL and the Arts Council and as a publicly funded organisation, it's unlikely the MAC has the anyway close to the money needed to deal with the repairs alone.

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The £1m repair estimate has been based on the bill for the stone cladding the first time around in the original construction project, with an additional allowance for inflation and removal of the existing cladding.

On the building's problems Mr O'Neil said the issues were more significant than they would like to have dealt with but he remains confident that a permanent solution can be put in place.

Several architects have spoken out to say that problems with a new building are not unusual and that buildings can have all kinds of issues, both during construction and in the first few years post-construction.

Many have described it like moving into a new home where it is a living, breathing thing where you may only find faults when you live with it and the building is in daily use.

Despite the current issues the MAC is still planning to go ahead with the judging process in a competition for the Arts Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015.

The venue has made the shortlist of the prestigious award and will find out if it has been successful on the 1st of July 2015.

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