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Sunday, 18 March, 2001, 09:29 GMT
Architecture awards break records
The Ecos Environment Centre
Civic Trust winner: The Ecos Environment Centre

By the BBC's Susanna Reid

A record number of buildings in Northern Ireland have won awards for improving the environment for local people.

The Civic Trust has been handing out awards for "better buildings" in the UK for more than 40 years - and says architecture is experiencing a big revival at local level.

Organisers say there is a growth in confidence and investment in the area, which is reflected in more ambitious design and architecture.

One of the winners in Northern Ireland is Armagh's arts centre, a 5m complex built almost 30 years after the city's original arts venue was destroyed by a bomb.


This theatre has come at just the right time - it's a real magnet for visitors and a vibrant focal point for the city

Jazz musician Mike Quellin
The new venue has been open just a year in the city many consider to be the cultural heart of Northern Ireland.

Jazz musician Mike Quellin said: "Because of the trouble locally, people really have been afraid to do anything other than stay at home and watch television.

"But now things are more peaceful, this theatre has come at just the right time - it's a real magnet for visitors and a vibrant focal point for the city."

Ballymena's Ecos Environment Centre opened in August and it is another award winner.


We wanted a place where young people could come and learn that there is no need to live with violence

Wendy Parry
It is powered by wind and solar energy and is a champion of recycling.

It is also a rare example of a piece of millennium architecture that has won universal praise.

Another winner is the Young People's Centre in Warrington, which is inextricably linked to events in Northern Ireland.

It was built in honour of Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry, the two boys killed by an IRA bomb in 1993.

"We wanted a place where young people could come and learn that there is no need to live with violence", says Tim's mum Wendy.

"Young people can come and enjoy simply being together - and learn a bit more about peace."

The centre has a cyber cafe, a shop that schoolchildren can run themselves, an art room and a residential wing for visiting children from war-torn countries.

The Civic Trust is a national charity pledged to improve the built environment of the UK.

The awards presentation will be made on Thursday at the Science Museum in London.

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