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History of Drawing Offices

The Harland & Wolff Headquarters building was the creative hub of a yard so vast that at its peak it was like a city within a city. 

It was built in the late 1880s when the company was emerging as one of the world’s leading shipbuilders. Here decisions were made which changed the course of shipbuilding as visionary designers created the largest, most innovative and luxurious ships of the time.

Guests at the hotel will discover the unique history of the world’s greatest shipbuilders and the remarkable men who steered Harland & Wolff to pre-eminence. Titanic might have become the ‘most famous ship since Noah’s Ark’ but the company built over 1700 other vessels, including many record breakers. Guest will learn about the spectacular Drawing Offices where these ships were designed, the companies that bought them and the famous public figures who launched them, as well as the triumphs and tragedies of the wartime years…

With an abundance of space, from 1885 Harland & Wolff was able to build its two magnificent Drawing Offices as a statement to the shipping world – ‘we will be the best!’ And so it proved, for here many of the world’s largest and most innovative ships were designed over the next century.

As the shipyard grew, so the building expanded. In 1910, a three-storey building housing the administrative office was built to the south of Drawing Office One. The next year the old one-storey entrance block was demolished and replaced by the three-storey one we see today on Queen’s Road. Towards the end of the decade, a further extension was added to the north-east of the building. A fourth floor was added later to house men and women’s tea rooms and ladies toilets.




The pair of Drawing Offices are justly renowned for their beauty and they were certainly intended to impress. But the main purpose of their striking design, particularly the huge windows and skylights, was to capture as much natural northern light as possible. The two rooms were even built far enough apart to avoid one casting a shadow on the other when the sun was low. Gas lighting and, when the technology was adequately advanced, electricity, were used when the afternoons darkened.


The splendour of the Drawing Offices, designed to reflect the elegance of Harland & Wolff’s ships, created an enticing shop window for prospective clients. Not only did the building have a design input by the same people who designed the ships but in many areas identical materials were used in the construction. 

Steel came from the same Scottish supplier used for the White Star liners Majestic and Teutonic in the late 1880s, while the mild steel beams were riveted together with the same kind of iron rivet used in the construction of Titanic and countless other vessels of that era. The same craftsmen who worked on the great liners also provided the dentil moulding that lines the walls and ceilings, the decorative plasterwork and joinery, the timber panelling, the linoleum floor coverings and the metalwork of the stairs. The floor tiles on the ground floor were identical to those used in Titanic’s first class smoking room. The steel beam and rivets, decorative plasterwork, tiles and joinery are still present in the building today.