Guy Butler moved the coffee pot to one corner of the table, the butter dish to another and his glass of beer to a third. "If this was a piazza I would make it a triangle featuring a newspaper shop, a muffin store and a coffee outlet," he said.
"That means people have to move from one to the other and it creates a dynamic of activity within the zone." Mr. Butler, an expatriate architect now living in Florida, was back in his native Belfast for the first time in 20 years, and was impressed by what he was seeing.
He was chatting over lunch in Pat's Bar in Dock Street, overlooking the rather barren expanses of Laganside's Clarendon Dock. Although several riverfront office blocks have been built there is, so far, little in the way of new social amenities. But Mr. Butler says that, with a bit of vision, such areas could become a magnet for the public, both by day and in the evenings.
"You get the pubs to operate a happy hour when people are going home from work so that they are attracted to stay in the area a bit longer," he said.
"Then people need something to eat, so that generates a market for restaurants. And then to get those people to make an evening of it you need something else. What about having a barge with a fireworks display come down the riverfront area at around 10.30 or 11pm so that people are tempted to hang around a little longer to see the show? I'm just thinking off the top of my head, but these are the sort of ideas that have helped regeneration elsewhere, so why not in Belfast too?"
Mr. Butler, a member of Mensa, was educated at RBAI and Queen's University where he graduated in applied science and technology before doing an M.Sc. in architecture.
In 1974 he left Belfast to seek fame and fortune overseas. Having worked in the United States in student days, America was the obvious destination for him.
"I decided to leave Belfast primarily because I felt I was living in the shadow of my father, Malcolm Butler, who had played soccer for Blackpool and Northern Ireland," he said. Mr. Butler was himself a keen footballer in his youth, playing for Cliftonville, Crusaders and Queen's, and still enjoys the game.
Once in the US, Mr. Butler made a beeline for Orlando at the time Disneyworld was developing, and quickly became interested in the concept of theme parks and theme restaurants. He joined Duer-Butler as a principal in 1975 and then left in 1978 to set up his own design practice, Guy Butler Associates.
In 1982, Orlando-based Guy Butler Associates was acquired by the international design firm Spillis Candela and Partners. Mr. Butler became the youngest of nine directors, and the company grew to 275 employees, winning several national and international awards.
In 1989 Mr. Butler formed an independent consulting firm called Design Matrix International, which provided an interface between theme park show designers and architects around the world. Design Matrix International evolved into the current architectural practice of Guy Butler Architect, LLC which provides themed architecture to the hospitality and leisure sectors.
Practising for 22 years as a principal in architecture, Mr. Butler has been involved in more than 1,000 projects, ranging from the very small to some worth a billion dollars in construction costs.
A member of both the American Institute of Architects and the Royal Institute of British Architects, he has worked in 32 countries on behalf of various corporate and private sector clients.
The country grabbing most of his attention at present is China, which he has visited five times already this year. "It is emerging onto the world scene fast and there is a lot of work to be had there," he said. So certain is Mr. Butler that China is the next place to burst onto the international scene that he is learning Mandarin Chinese at present.
But Mr. Butler can also see a flourishing future for Belfast.
"People say Northern Ireland can never compare with Florida, but why is it that people go to Orlando?" he asked. "It is simply because of all the stuff people have created there. It is chicken and egg. People go there because it is a tourist destination, but 100 years ago there wasn't a single tourist there."
In Belfast, Mr. Butler's host was Arthur Acheson, an old friend and now partner in local architectural practice -The Boyd Partnership.
Mr. Butler and Mr. Acheson met during student days at Queen's, and both worked together in The Boyd Partnership before Mr. Butler took wing. Much of Mr. Acheson's work is also centred around a regeneration ethos, and among projects in which he has been involved are saving a riverside warehouse from demolition, bringing watersports to the inner city Lagan, and restoring a 17th century house. Mr. Acheson's local involvement demonstrates that these two architects have come from very different angles to reach similar conclusions.
Back in 1971, their final year design project took the form of a giant walk-in balloon which was placed on the back lawn at Queen's, much to the amazement of passers-by. The balloon was big enough to accommodate a bus, and to complete the project the students borrowed a double-decker for the centrepiece.
Now Mr. Butler is working on a scheme which he believes can make Belfast the top regional visitor attraction centre in the UK.
"If we can create a theme park at Shantou in China which will attract 2.4 million people a year, we can do something unique for Belfast," he said.
"Belfast has loads of potential but at the moment it is like someone trying to swim with a concrete block tied round their feet. We have got to get rid of that block and create a new vision for this city."
During his visit, Mr. Butler took time out to deliver an address to final year architecture students at Queen's. "I told them that during my life I made a lot of mistakes, but I have been lucky and have also made a lot of money," he said.
"My job is to think of ideas before anyone else. Then, when it's up and running, everyone says: "Boy, that was so obvious."
"My attitude to life has always been "get it done" - but the secret, as ever, is getting there first."
The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews has recently announced that the Open Championship will be played at Carnoustie in Scotland. The Carnoustie Golf Course Hotel and Resort has appointed Orlando Architect, Guy Butler, to design facilities for the Championship.
"Guy was an integral part of our team during the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie and we are delighted to be working with him again over the next four years," says Michael Johnston, Chairman of the Carnoustie Golf Course Hotel. Mr. Johnston commissioned Butler's firm during the recent PGA show in Orlando.
Guy Butler Architect has showcased it's expertise on several Central Florida Golf Facilities as well as around the world. Locally, the firm has been involved with Lake Nona, Islesworth and MetroWest. Current Golf related projects include the prestigeous Reunion Resort and Club and the Bonnet Creek Resort.