Monday, 30 July 2012

7 days to go...

Our names are Gemma Armstrong and Helen Burnett, and we are built environment students currently working with PLACE this summer as urban design summer school interns.  And the preparation is now most certainly complete for our summer school which begins in exactly one week from today!  Being the two interns solely responsible for the smooth running of the event, we are excited but slightly overwhelmed by the experience of preparing for the week, but can honestly say we are confident for a successful one.

One of the most exciting aspects of the week is the venue.  We received the news that we have been granted the ground floor space of the Obel building.  With the reputation of being Ireland’s tallest building, excellent panoramic views over the River Lagan to the docks, and at the heart of city centre re-development, it is the perfect location to host our young and creative participants.
The Obel Tower, our venue for the week

What is even more intriguing is the ‘blank canvas’ it provides us with, with a huge interior space of purely concrete and glass.  This means we get the fun job of interior designing also!  Not only are we designing a studio space for the summer school, but also designating space to host film nights and an exhibition area, which are certainly occupying us as the days draw ever closer to the 6th of August.  And we haven’t even mentioned the fun we have been having in trying to solve the toilet issue!  
Our 'blank canvas'
In terms of the week, we have packed it with a wide range of activities from boat trips, theatre visits and walking tours.  The material list for the week is growing daily, including unusual items such as balloons and play-doh, so it certainly promises to be an interesting and creative week!
The collection of materials is growing each day

So as the event draws even closer, make sure to spread the word and get signed up as there are still a few places available!

If you’re aged between 14-19 and interested in taking part, the summer school is taking place on Monday 6th to Friday 10th of August at a cost of £50.  For more information please do not hesitate to call us on 028 9023 2524, call in and visit us, or sign up via the website:

Friday, 27 July 2012

Big changes in our Habitat

Habitat for Humanity's last site at Templemore Avenue in East Belfast
Big changes are ahead for well-known charity Habitat for Humanity Northern Ireland, as they move away from building cross-community social and affordable houses in Northern Ireland. The popular building developments - the only NI entry in the publication 'Design Like You Give a Damn' - are to be replaced with a Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Habitat for Humanity NI was founded in 1994 by Peter Farquharson and his wife Jane McCarthy, when Northern Ireland was still in the grip of ‘The Troubles’ and segregation of communities was at its most extreme. Peter envisioned using the Habitat model locally as a way for communities and individuals to rebuild trust and restore relationships - bringing Catholics and Protestants together, simply to build houses, build community and build hope.

Over the last 18 years Habitat for Humanity NI delivered more than 90 homes across 9 different communities and brought together more than 17,000 volunteers from all backgrounds and faiths to work together for the good of families in need. This latest news come just 5 mounts after the NI Peace Monitoring Report suggests that segregation continues across politics, housing and education - and that the region is at risk of lurching back into the past.

The new houses designed by BGA Architects Ltd in association with Habitat for Humanity NI and Tyrone Timber Frames Ltd, were designed so that they were low cost, low energy urban houses. The terrace of 6 houses addresses the strong pattern of Belfast terraced streets in the old ship-building part of the city. The narrow-fronted houses have double height spaces to create the illusion of more space and also to encourage natural stack effect ventilation from the open plan ground floor. A mezzanine floor overlooks the living space below or could provide a future fourth bedroom if required. Externally the houses are finished with red brick to complement the existing housing stock. Large zinc-clad vertical 'box' windows reinterpret the traditional bay window typology.

As Habitat for Humanity's last site at Templemore Avenue in East Belfast nears completion, the charity hopes to launch a ReStore in Northern Ireland. The ReStore is a retail outlet selling new and used surplus building and home improvement materials. This project will be the first Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Europe. Habitat plans to move from the Springfeild Road to a new location in Lisburn. The new store will be a hub for their work in Northern Ireland; this will be an opportunity to raise sustainable income, serve more local families through low cost materials, protect the environment and provide a new way for volunteers to engage with Habitat's work over the long term. 

Habitat for Humanity Northern Ireland is also a key partner in Habitat’s global mission raising funds and sending teams to Romania, Malawi, Cambodia, Ethiopia, El Salvador and India. One in every five-hundred people from Northern Ireland have built homes alongside families in need in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

As many property development companies and charities reshape their business plans to face the economic down turn in land prices and property value. While ReStores in the Unites States and Canada have been very popular, raising much need income for the charity, one still feels that there will be a vacuum left behind with the changes away from cross community building.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Anthony Haughey, Settlement at Belfast Exposed

Settlement I, Anthony Haughey 2011, Courtesy of Belfast Exposed

My name is Catherine McCormick and I’m currently working as one of the research interns at PLACE.  As a means of getting to know the architectural community in Belfast, I’ve spent my first couple of weeks at PLACE checking out a number of exhibitions currently running in galleries within the city, with the intention of blogging about them after!

Currently held in the Belfast Exposed Gallery, ‘Settlement’ is a photographic and architectural exhibition by Anthony Haughey, which explores how economic growth in Ireland affected the natural landscape. 

I could see, from our larger towns and cities, to the smallest rural villages, how Anthony has captured these ‘ghost estates’, which have been left incomplete as a result of the collapse of Ireland’s ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy. The effects are portrayed through an excellent combination of darkness, artificial light and long exposures.

This collapse saw the immediate end of more than fifteen years of growth as the bank’s dissolved developer’s loans, which ultimately ceased building projects across Ireland. This has now left the once picturesque landscapes dotted with unfinished houses and estates. The National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis 2010 estimated that there are currently more than 620 ‘ghost estates’ and thousands of empty houses throughout Ireland. It could be suggested that these ‘ghost towns’ signify the end of Ireland’s gold rush and express the effects of hastily building housing estates in tandem with unregulated growth.

Settlement XVI, Anthony Haughey 2011. Courtesy of Belfast Exposed

The Exhibition which has been running since June 29th compromises a number of elements, such as; a series of landscape photographs showing ‘ghost towns’ in Ireland throughout 2010/2011, a large architectural installation, and a number of propositions which re-imagine a selection of vacant, dis-used and unfinished sites throughout Ireland.

The architectural model and design proposals featured in the exhibition are result of the collaboration between Anthony Haughey, Paul O’Sullivan, UCD Architecture students, the DIT NAMAlab project and Mahoney Architects, where the idea was to reimagine and redesign these disused, unfinished sites.

The photographs presented are quite moving in how they capture the implications economic downturn can have on the construction industry whether you’re an architect, planner, builder or resident. This is a great exhibition for those of you who have a spare half hour passing through town and have an interest in architecture and design in the South of Ireland. 

The Exhibition will run until August 10th 2012

Settlement: Where Do We Go from Here? Panel Discussion: 9 August, 2pm. This discussion is free but please RSVP to [email protected] to reserve a place.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Consultation opens for a new Urban Regeneration and Community Development Policy Framework

The Department for Social Development, responsible for Urban Regeneration in Northern Ireland has opened a public consultation process for a new Urban Regeneration and Community Development Policy Framework.

The Framework will determine the priorities for urban regeneration and community development policies and programmes over the coming years. These are more familiar in the shape of large projects like the Victoria Square development, Public Realm improvements in town centres and Neighbourhood Renewal activity.

The Victoria Square Comprehensive Development Scheme was initially
chosen by the Social Development Minister in July 2000, following an
assessment of four city centre sites, and officially adopted by the
Department in January 2003. Construction began in 2004 on the largest
single investment ever in Belfast and was completed in Early 2007.

Commenting on the beginning of the public consultation process Minister McCausland said: