Belfast Royal Academy - founded 1785


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On 7th June 2018, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland initiated an exhibition based on the work and heritage of the architectural and engineering practice of Young and Mackenzie. This firm is now acknowledged as one of the most influential in the modern development of Belfast, and among the many buildings constructed to designs they submitted is Belfast Royal Academy, completed in 1880.

Robert Young (1822-1917), the founder of the firm, had been a pupil in the old Academy building near St Anne’s Cathedral. He established his practice in the 1850s, and afterwards took on his son, Robert Magill Young (1851-1925), and John MacKenzie. Among the many exceptional buildings they were responsible for are: Robinson and Cleavers; the Presbyterian Assembly Buildings; the Culloden Hotel at Cultra and many others in the city and across the province.

Robert senior, and later his son, served on the Council, and as Warden of the Academy for many years, and the Council (the Board, in modern usage), often met in the  offices of the firm in the Scottish Provident Building on Donegall Square West – also designed by Young and MacKenzie.

The PRONI exhibition is curated by Dr Paul Harron, and based on his recent book, Architects of Ulster: Young and MacKenzie, A transformational provincial practice, 1850-1960.


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