Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Past in the Present: World Monument Fund - 2012 Watch List

In this series, The Past in the Present, we explore how the historic urban character of a city can be part of a dynamic and continually evolving contemporary society, with an aim to spark debate on the topic of conservation and heritage in our cities and further afield.

Series curated by Ailish Killilea and Anna Skoura.

The 2012 Watch List has been recently announced by the World Monuments Fund. Every two years since 1996, the World Monuments Watch calls international attention to cultural heritage around the globe that is at risk from the forces of nature and the impact of social, political, and economic change. It is worth mentioning that the Carlilsle Memorial Methodist church in Belfast was included in the 2010 List.

This year, four sites in the UK are part of the Watch:

British Brutalism in Birmingham, Preston, and London, England
Find out more: link

Southbank Centre in London, view along the south side of the Hayward Gallery, 2010, image via the World Monuments Fund

Newstead Abbey in Ravenshead, Nottinghamshire
Find out more: link
The 13th century West Front of the priory church of Newstead Abbey, 2011, image via the World Monuments Fund

Quarr Abbey in Ryde, Isle of Wight
Find out more: link
Rough stone gable with blind pointed arches in the old abbey, seen from the East, 2009, image via the World Monuments Fund

Ruins of the former cathedral church of St. Michael in Coventry, West Midlands
Find out more: link
View of the old Cathedral from the East, with the new Cathedral to the right, 2011, image via the World Monuments Fund

The complete list, as well as a very informative report are available online via the World Monuments Fund.

somewhereto_ plant a community allotment

Recently Andy Kenny, a Masters in Landscape Architecture student, got in touch with us looking for somewhereto_ plant a community allotment. Andy and a group of several more young people from the University of Ulster Architecture Department completed the project in the past few weeks. Here, he tells us how they got on...

Starting to dig in East Belfast. Photo by Andy Kenny.

Andy, tell us a bit about yourself

I am a graduate of 3D Design and have recently obtained a Master’s Degree in Landscape Architecture. I have also been involved in engaging the public and community with projects including “Urban Playground”, Belfast 2008 at the Pothouse Bar, been a resident at “out of PLACE”, TransBelfast 2010 and Culture Night 2010 where I produced green interventions in the City Centre.

One of the completed allotment boxes. Photo by Andy Kenny.
Through my course in Landscape Architecture at the University of Ulster I worked with “The Science Shop” where I designed a community based project. In my thesis I explored digital technology and community planning in Northern Ireland that achieved two awards.

Why did you need a space?
The project with somewhereto_ was a continuation of “The Science Shop” community design proposal in East Belfast. From studying the research carried out by the East Belfast Partnership I believed there was a need for improvement in the areas of Education, Employment and Health of Ballymacarrett and surroundings areas in East Belfast. With the removal of Secondary and Primary schools as well as the Metropolitan College in July 2011, there is now an important opportunity to give education to the local people in the area.

Up a tree in East Belfast. Photo by Andy Kenny.
Urban agriculture would give the local people a chance to learn and gain ‘hands on’ experience. This would be linked in with local community centres and the local people with the potential of myself and others promoting growing allotments and guerrilla gardening. This would hopefully lead to a new community and provide the local people with the opportunity and confidence to get skills and employment. By the means of fresh foods available in a local context it would also create a healthier lifestyle. Also, with the simplicity of growing fresh food and the benefits of eating them it would increase the health of the local people at a low price.

The team at work. Photo by Andy Kenny.
What were your plans?
The creation of the community allotment/orchard would be through the help of the local community, somewhereto_, PLACE, East Belfast Partnership and eight Architecture students from the University of Ulster. It would be designed and constructed as a community allotment and maintained by the local people in an area of unused land owned by the NIHE on the Belmont Road.

Mucky hands! Photo by Andy Kenny.
How did the plans work out?
The design and construction of the project was successful with the students engaged throughout the process. Fruit trees were planted, planter beds were established, compost bins were constructed on site and filled. To promote the project, bird boxes with the somewhereto_ logos were placed around the site and in other potential areas.

Bird boxes at Edenvale Crescent. Photo by Andy Kenny.
The project has the potential to be continued in other areas of the city of as the allotment spaces are in high demand in Belfast. There is also great potential to expand the project with over 107 hectares of potential land in the city centre alone, according to figures from the Forum for Alternative Belfast. It is clear that the local community are interested in the project - people have been contacting me by phone, email and Twitter.

A presentation of the work is on display in the weePLACE cabinet at PLACE from 1st - 21st December, and Seed bombs and information sheets can be collected. Follow the journey of the project on Twitter: @GrowingBelfast

- Andy Kenny


PLACE is the Northern Ireland Regional Coordinator for somewhereto_, a nationwide project to help young people find the space they need to do the things they love within sport, culture and the arts. Run by Livity, in partnership with Channel 4, the project is funded by Legacy Trust UK, an independent charity set up to help build a lasting cultural and sporting legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games across the UK.

Do you need somewhereto_ do the things you love? Get in touch with us...

- Tweet us: @somewhereto_NI
- Phone: 028 9023 2524

Monday, 28 November 2011

Post-2013: Sustaining the City of Culture

In this series, Post-2013, we take a critical look at the transitions that Derry~Londonderry and its people will undergo in preparation for the UK City of Culture 2013, and we speculate on the long-term cultural sustainability for the region beyond 2013.

Series curated by Aimear Lynch.

The newly constructed Peace Bridge connecting the Cityside and the Waterside. Photo by Aimear Lynch.
The tension was palpable in the Guildhall Square as the winner of the UK City of Culture was revealed in July 2010. The announcement saw Derry~Londonderry beat off stiff competition from the other nominee cities (Birmingham, Norwich and Sheffield) to secure the cultural year. The award, a first of its kind within the UK, follows the success of Liverpool as European Capital of Culture 2008, and provides the city and region with a unique opportunity to showcase the its distinctive and diverse cultures.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Past in the Present: Adaptive church re-use

In this series, The Past in the Present, we explore how the historic urban character of a city can be part of a dynamic and continually evolving contemporary society, with an aim to spark debate on the topic of conservation and heritage in our cities and further afield.

Series Curated by Ailish Killilea & Anna Skoura

As times are changing, religious needs are changing too. Less people go to services, resulting with a number of churches left unused and subject to decay. As churches are in most cases buildings with historic and architectural interest, valued by the community, it is imperative to consider their conservation.

But preservation without reuse is not easy to justify or finance, especially in the midst of an economic recession. It is also true that there are a great number of historic buildings eligible for re-use and they all compete against each other for the limited resources associated with this type of development. Sadly, churches offer limited appeal due to their inherent difficulties to convert. Nevertheless, there are a number of very successful examples of reused churches that demonstrate how with appropriate interventions the building can be suited for a number of purposes with very alluring results and can prove a unique visitor/user experience.

Most people in Belfast would be familiar with the Belfast Empire Music Hall, a Victorian era church now converted to a boosting nightlife venue. But this is not the only successful example.

AAI site visit to the MAC - 26th November

Click the flyer to enlarge.
The AAI have arranged a site visit to the MAC in Belfast this Sat 26th November. Registration for non-AAI members is €10/£8. More info from the AAI website:

Friday, 18 November 2011

Academy of Urbanism 2012 Annual Congress to take place in Derry~Londonderry

Photo via Adamina on Flickr

Hot on the heels of winning the Great Town Award 2012, Derry has been confirmed as the host city for the Academy of Urbanism Annual Congress next year. More updates as we get them.

The full list of winners from the 2012 Awards are also listed on the Academy of Urbanism's website.

The Past in the Present: Should the Athletic Stores be saved?

In this series, The Past in the Present, we explore how the historic urban character of a city can be part of a dynamic and continually evolving contemporary society, with an aim to spark debate on the topic of conservation and heritage in our cities and further afield.

Series Curated by Ailish Killilea & Anna Skoura

A need to harness "the positive long-term economic benefits of using quintessentially Belfast buildings for 21st century uses" was highlighted yesterday in a letter to the Planning Committee by The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society and Forum for Alternative Belfast. The two campaign groups were lobbying the Committee not to approve demolition of the Athletic Stores/Swanston's Linen Warehouse on Queen St in Belfast. View the illustrated letter below.

UAHS/FAB letter. Click to enlarge.

UAHS/FAB letter. Click to enlarge.

The latest news today, according to the UAHS, is that the building was recommended for demolition at last night's meeting.

Update 18th November: The UAHS has today written an open letter to the Minister for the Environment asking for his intervention in the case. See the letter below.

Letter from the UAHS to Minister for the Environment Alex Attwood. Click to enlarge.

Update 21st November: Belfast City Council approves demolition of Athletic Stores building in Belfast
 - BBC News website

What do you think? Should the Athletic Stores be saved?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Past in the Present: National Maintenance Week

In this new series, The Past in the Present, we explore how the historic urban character of a city can be part of a dynamic and continually evolving contemporary society, with an aim to spark debate on the topic of conservation and heritage in our cities and further afield.

Series Curated by Ailish Killilea & Anna Skoura

National Maintenance Week. Image via UAHS.

Building maintenance and upkeep plays a key role in the preservation of our historic buildings and heritage. Next week, November 18th - 25th, is 'National Maintenance Week' and aims to highlight this matter.

Preventative measures such as maintenance is beneficial in more ways than one; keeps building costs down, increases the building's potential, enhances features and demonstrates pride in the area. This applies to all buildings, historic and modern, in order to avoid costly damage in the future.

The leaves have fallen and no, they have not flown to sunnier climes, they could very well be filling your gutters and gullies! Something the Ulster Architecture Heritage Society (UAHS) and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) are highlighting over the next week. Find out how you can maintain your property with tops tips from the UAHS.

Look after your building and it will look after you.

Connecting Places: Why occupy Writer's Square?

In this new series, Connecting Places, we explore the spaces, places and sustainable transport systems in Belfast and beyond, with an aim to generate critical debate on the design of our towns and cities.

Series curated by Aaron Coulter

Writer's Square - Belfast's Best Public Space? From Bing Maps - edited by Aaron Coulter.

At 1370m² Writer's Square is one of the largest public spaces in Belfast's city centre and plays host to a variety of festivals and one off events throughout the year. The square was completed in 2002 by the Laganside Corporation. Then Chief Executive Mike Smith said:
"The new public space will be an important environmental asset to the area, creating somewhere pleasant to walk and relax... literary inscriptions will ensure that Writer's Square is welcomed as somewhere to enjoy, and a place to gather inspiration rather than pass through." - Mike Smith, BBC News website, January 2002
Despite these intentions, the square is widely regarded one of the most poorly designed spaces in Belfast and for the majority of the year, when there is not a specially curated programme of events, Writer's Square is a largely derelict and windswept space and 'passing through' it is often a last resort.

So why have the Occupy Belfast movement set up camp here?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Shared Space 2011 - FAB & BCRC event Wed 16th Nov

Click the flyer to enlarge. Queries to BCRC or FAB.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Derry City Walls Gazetteer now available free from NIEA

The new gazetteer is the third publication on the city's walls from NIEA since 2007. All three are available from the NIEA website.

A new gazetteer which describes the walls of Derry in detail is now available as a free PDF download from the NIEA website:

Friday, 11 November 2011

Derry~Londonderry wins Great Town Award at Urbanism Awards 2012

Derry has won this year's Great Town Award at the Urbanism Awards. Photo via edvvc on Flickr.

At today's Urbanism Awards ceremony in London's Grand Connaught Rooms, Derry~Londonderry was awarded the Great Town Award 2012.

Accepting the Award on behalf of the city, Derry's Deputy Mayor Councillor Kevin Campbell said that the awards were a starting point for the city to continue sharing and exchanging knowledge with Bury St Edmunds and Totnes, the two other Great Town finalists. Councillor Campbell led a strong delegation from Derry City Council to the event.

A poem by Ian McMillan based on the new Peace Bridge in the city will be featured on the Academy of Urbanism website in the next few days.

An inspiring keynote speech at the ceremony by Wally Olins CBE highlighted that people's perceptions of a place can be rooted in the past, but that it is just as important to look to the future. He felt that Derry was a great role model for this attitude.

At PLACE, we are delighted with this result for Derry and for Northern Ireland - PLACE Director Michael Hegarty has been a keen supporter of the campaign: "When added to City of Culture, the nomination of Culturlann for the Stirling Prize and our spectacular new Peace Bridge, people beyond here are now starting to recognise what Derry people have always known - Derry is a Great Town!"

We also look forward to strengthening our relationship in future with the Academy of Urbanism, whose aim to advance the understanding and practice of urbanism closely aligns with our own at PLACE.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

QUB Architecture Student Journal 2011 - launching at PLACE Thurs 17th Nov

Architecture Student Journal 2010-11 launch. Click the flyer to enlarge.

We are delighted to host the launch of this year's QUB Architecture Student Journal at PLACE next Thursday, 17th November at 6pm.

Admission free. All welcome.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Belfast City Council Disability Event - 2nd Dec 2011

Image courtesy Belfast City Council
The Chair of Belfast City Council’s Disability Access Group, and Disability Champion, Andrew Hassard, would like to invite interested persons to the 2011 Belfast City Council Annual Disability Event which will take place on Friday 2 December 2011 at 10am in the Banqueting Hall, City Hall.

Please note the event is strictly by booking only: contact Marie Jordan at [email protected] by 25th November to book a place.

The event will coincide with ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ and the theme this year will be “Together for a better world for all: including persons with disabilities in development”. The event will include an overview of the following:
- "Designing a visible city for visually impaired users - breaking the barriers of disabling architecture"
- Belfast City Council’s disability action plan
- The development of Belfast City Council’s new Therapy Garden at Musgrave Park
- Waterfront & Ulster Halls works on achieving the ‘Arts & Disabilities Award'
- Employers for Disability NI - support to employers of people with disabilities

Keynote presentation: Designing a visible city for visually impaired users
This presentation, based on the PhD findings of Dr Robert White, provides an insight into the current barriers inherent to the design of urban environments for people with different types and degree of visual field loss. The research topic stems from Robert's own personal experience as an architect coping with sight loss, in addition to a substantial predicted increase in visual impairment prevalence across the UK. The presentation covers six main themes as outlined below:

- Visual impairment prevalence & future predictions
- Legislation & guidelines
- Nationwide survey of visually impaired pedestrians highlighting problematic areas of street design
- Access audit of Glasgow city centre providing an illustration of the number and type of hazards present within a typical city centre environment
- Navigational experiments between two specified locations within Glasgow city centre, which situate the problem through comparison of experiences between visually impaired and fully sighted cases
- Street Hazard Rating Calculation, which measures both the adequacy of mandatory regulations and the extent to which best practice guidelines are adopted by local authorities
- Enhanced design guidelines for the creation of visually impaired friendly street design, based on the findings from the 4-year research project

Please note the event is strictly by booking only: contact Marie Jordan at [email protected] by 25th November to book a place.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

PLACE Student Design Charrette 2011: Getting started

Our 3 teams have received their briefs and are hard at work assessing the site and coming up with their proposals. We have students and recent graduates from Architecture, Planning, Urban Design and Culture & Cognition.
Students at work at this year's Student Design Charrette at PLACE.

I spoke to Tara Florence of ARD Ciaran Mackel Architects, our partners in the Charrette, to explain the project brief:
PLACE Student Charrette 2011: North Street void (mp3)

We also discussed the potential for North Street and what the students might come up with in today's workshop.
PLACE Student Charrette 2011: What does North Street need? (mp3)

Stay tuned: the Charrette continues today, with pin-up at 4.45!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Measured Drawings exhibition launching this Thursday

Architect Des Grehan is exhibiting a collection of measured drawings at The Wickerman in Belfast.

"You are invited to the opening of an exhibition of a collection of measured drawings of some of our most important buildings. The body of work has taken two years to assemble and hopefully the drawings will stand as an accurate record of our built heritage.

The opening night is on Thursday 3rd November between 6pm and 8pm in The Wickerman at River House, 44-46 High Street, Belfast."