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Marcon completes fit-out of Tropical Ravine in Belfast

Marcon has handed over its latest heritage project – the newly restored Tropical Ravine in Belfast.  The unique building, which is the only one of its kind in Europe, nestles in the heart of Botanic Gardens and is home to many tropical and native plants.

The ravine has now been restored to its former glory, with a modern 21st century twist which will see it become one of Belfast’s most popular visitor attractions. The listed building, which dates back to 1887, has had many of its original Victorian features reinstated and preserved.

Working closely with Belfast City Council and interpretive designers Houghton Kneale Design, Marcon’s heritage team added the finishing touches to the £3.8million restoration project.

Marcon was responsible for the interpretive fit-out within the building consisting of the manufacture and installation of specialist setworks, manufactured from powder coated metalwork and treated timber graphic panels. Marcon also integrated the audio visual hardware and software into the physical and digital interactives within the building and have incorporated graphic panels within the external plinths and specialist stonework.

Martin McErlean, Heritage Contracts Manager, Marcon said: “This is a unique project in every sense of the word and it is wonderful to have played a key role in bringing the Tropical Ravine back to life. 

The new exhibition contains many interesting physical interactive elements for visitors of all ages – viewing periscopes, smell boxes, a climate zone globe, sliding magnifying glasses, audio posts and digital touch screens to name but a few.

The main challenge that we faced from a fit-out perspective was the procurement of materials that will withstand being in a hot and humid, tropical environment.  We have managed to achieve this and are very pleased with the quality of the project.”

Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Nuala McAllister, who officially reopened the Tropical Ravine added: “This was a mammoth task and was more than three years in the making, but I think when people come and see it for themselves, they will agree it has been well worth the wait.

The Tropical Ravine is a unique asset for Belfast and has always been a popular visitor attraction. Thanks to this spectacular makeover I have no doubt that it will continue to attract new visitors and will be a fantastic addition to our tourism offering.

Before work started on the Tropical Ravine, many of the plants were temporarily moved into the Palm House or rehomed at Botanic Gardens’ glasshouses. The large cycads that we couldn’t shift were covered and protected from reconstruction work and the cold. Some of the plants are estimated to be over 150 years old so the restoration has been a remarkable feat.”

Mr Frank Caddy, Chair of the Friends of Botanic Gardens, which was closely involved in the restoration project, said: “The Tropical Ravine has been transformed into a fantastic visitor and educational space, an outstanding amenity that will last for future generations. We look forward to many more people enjoying these new facilities”.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund this project is a wonderful example of the importance of preserving our built environment.

The ravine is now split over two levels with an open reception area on the ground floor, and the building has been modernised to make it more energy efficient with new triple-glazed windows installed to retain heat and create the right environment for the exotic plants.