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Seamus Heaney's HomePlace wins leading architecture award

The Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy looks out over the land which inspired much of his work.

A CENTRE in Co Derry dedicated to the memory of Nobel prize winning writer Seamus Heaney has won a prestigious architecture award.

The Seamus Heaney Homeplace in Bellaghy, built on the site of the village's former RUC station, was revealed as the winner of the Excellence in Planning for Built Heritage award by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

The Institute champions the power of planning in creating prosperous places and vibrant communities. With more than 24,000 members worldwide, the RTPI confers chartered status to planners in the UK. The Institute annually highlights the best in planning in Britain and Ireland.

Heaney's work was steeped in the landscape of his home area around the village of Bellaghy in Co Derry. The poet died in 2013 and is buried in St Mary's church graveyard in Bellaghy.

Opened in September last year, the £4.25 million centre brings together artefacts and memories of the poet's life. The centre on Bellaghy's main street is home to photographs, personal items, books and objects from his life including a reconstruction of the study at his Dublin home.

It also includes the 189-seat Helicon performance area which is inspired by Greek theatre and a café and education and learning facilities.

Chair of the RTPI judging panel and former planning minister, Nick Raynsford said the awards celebrated exceptional examples of planning and the contribution planners made to society.

“Turning a once heavily fortified police station and what to many was a bleak symbol of political division to a welcoming and inspirational place is no small feat. The judges were impressed with how this project re-conceptualised heritage in the broadest possible sense. "

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