Thursday, 29 December 2011

2011 Highlights on the PLACE Blog

2011 has been a busy year for us on the PLACE Blog. Here are a few of our highlights:

A tour of Belfast's new MAC Theatre during September's Culture Night. Photo by Gary Potter.

Planning for the environment
"Land use planning is about more than simply promoting the orderly development of land. This should not be the end objective, but just one means of achieving something much more wholesome and holistic. Our planning should guide us towards a more balanced society where natural resources are protected and climate change is a key consideration in all decisions."
- Back in February, environmental planning expert Clive Mellon explained how to plan for the environment and sustainable development

Visiting the new Titanic Signature Building
"Once inside the building the sheer scale of the structure hits you. The internal atrium of the £73m structure will host the longest escalator in Ireland when opened next year."
- Gary Potter on the PLACE site visit to the Titanic Signature Building in April

The story of Broadcasting House
"The Corporation looked seriously at a vacant site in Donegall Square, to the east of the City Hall, but eventually decided it needed a location in ‘a less pretentious quarter’ with ample room for expansion."
- Andrew Colman, former Head of News and Current Affairs at BBC NI, gave us a history of BBC Broadcasting House in Belfast to mark its 70th anniversary in May

How to improve Belfast's River Banks
"Soft green landscaping, on-street parking, and a reduction in the number of traffic lanes were also suggested by participants as ways to encourage more use of the area. One team suggested a floating pontoon connecting the Obel to the Odyssey - the space could be adapted for events throughout the year."
- The PLACE CQ Charrette in May considered ways to improve the area next to the River Lagan in the City Centre

How to create positive change in rural design
"The PPS21 guidance aims to bring a sense of ownership to design and suggests that there are better ways to execute projects to avoid the flood of large, out of proportion houses with no connection to the landscape that have appeared in recent years. However the guidance must refrain from being over prescriptive or becoming too presumptuous. The purpose, as Paul McTernan explained, is not to create pastiche, but rather, 'to educate, inform and inspire' and 'positively nourish a change in aspirations and ambitions'."
- The new PPS21 Guidance on new building in the countryside was discussed at our Building on Tradition roadshow event in Ballymoney in June

Reducing street clutter
"Streets and roads make up around three-quarters of all public space - their design, appearance, and the way they function have a huge impact on the quality of people’s lives."
- From Manual for Streets 2, cited by Gary Potter in his investigation of street clutter in July

Rebuilding - again
"We actively unbuilt the city, and rebuilt it, at great public expense."
- Mark Hackett speaking at the Forum for Alternative Belfast's annual summer school in August

Visiting the new MAC Arts Centre
"The new MAC at 5,500 sq m is around eight times the size of the OMAC and will include two theatres, three major visual art galleries, a dance studio, education, workshop and rehearsal spaces, offices for resident arts groups as well as a resident artist and café and bar. It is anticipated that around 200,000 people will use these facilities every year which is sure to boost the local area which is already eagerly anticipating the development of the University of Ulster's City Campus around the York Street area."
- Gary Potter joined a hard hat tour of the MAC on Culture Night in September. The MAC is due to open in June 2012.

Craft and architecture
"It was interesting to understand how the very precise 3D modelling of the architecture practice worked alongside the cruder practice of boat building. Bending oak in a steam chamber is much more rough and ready than the millimetre perfect geometric design."
- Alan in Belfast reported on our Craftitecture event at PLACE, in which Merritt Bucholz of Bucholz McEvoy Architects discussed their collaboration with the Galway School of Boat Building

Charting a building's voyage
"The new Municipal Technical Institute was a grand, purpose-built, state of the art educational building. When it opened the building was one of the first in Belfast with electricity, and phones were fitted throughout. The building even had its own radio station for communications with ships and every room had a centrally controlled clock."
- Gary Potter gave an in-depth history of the past and present of the Belfast Met, from the City Centre to its new location in the Titanic Quarter

Thinking about public space
"It is clear that while Belfast has the capacity for major outdoor events in spaces like Writer's Square and Custom House Square, it is severely lacking in well-designed, responsive public space. Not enough attention is given to the spaces between buildings, activating them not only through one-off events mainly aimed at tourism, or pieces of commissioned public art that few appreciate, but with an urban experience centred around informal day-to-day activities. If we want people to move back to the heart of Belfast, generating this type of public realm is a vital component."
- Aaron Coulter in his new series on the blog Connecting Places, which aims to generate critical debate on the spaces, places and sustainable transport systems of Northern Ireland

New uses for old buildings
"I think the former Carlisle Memorial Church should become the Great Hall of the new university campus that is forecast for Belfast by the University of Ulster. I would like to see the campus embracing and defining the cultural corridor that we have spoken about for over 12 years in Belfast. "
Arthur Acheson commenting on a post in our new blog series The Past in the Present, which explores how the historic urban character of a city can be part of a dynamic and continually evolving contemporary society


We hope you've enjoyed following the blog this year as much as we've enjoyed producing it. We'll be back in early January with more - in the meantime, Happy New Year from all at PLACE!

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