Showing posts with label My PLACE. Show all posts
Showing posts with label My PLACE. Show all posts

Saturday, 21 May 2011

My PLACE: Andrew Colman, BBC NI

To mark its 70th Anniversary, Andrew Colman, former Head of News and Current Affairs at BBC NI, gives a history of BBC Broadcasting House in Belfast. The BBC is celebrating the 70th anniversary of Broadcasting House in Belfast with a special week of activities from 23-27 May 2011. Find out more via the BBC website.

Images and drawings courtesy of the BBCNI Community Archive.

The BBC station in Belfast began life in a converted linen warehouse in Linenhall Street. The premises were described as ‘extremely ugly and ill-shaped and most undignified in appearance.’ But more to the point they were soon too small for the growing staff and output, and the search began for a new home.

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. It purchased a site adjoining its existing premises, but with a frontage on Ormeau Avenue, facing Dublin Road.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

My PLACE: QUB 3rd Year Architecture

In this series, we ask practitioners, experts and enthusiasts for their take on the built environment - where are we now, how did we get here, and where are going?

We spoke to Alex Shields, Ciara McCallion, Michael McKeown, Catherina Caffrey and Justin Hughes, 3rd Year Architecture Students at Queen's.

The students' work will be on display at the Ulster Hall, launching Mon 28th March at 7pm

What has your group learned about designing for urban communities?

"For the past six months third year architecture students have been working closely within Sandy Row, Belfast in order to fully understand what an urban community is built up of and the need to improve, develop and sustain it. Our experiences have also taken us to Berlin in early October where we studied this urban environment and contrasted it with Belfast.

Designing for urban communities must begin with an understanding of the people who live within them. The understanding and the experience within a city.

This is shown by how the residents live their everyday life by the routes and pathways regularly taken by the community. Part of our analysis was alternative mapping, which consisted of following in other peoples tracks. This allowed us to experience the city in the footsteps of those who inhabit it forcing a different pattern to our paths and discover a new perception of an urban environment. This is a less prejudiced approach, which was firstly carried out in Berlin and later applied to Sandy Row in Belfast.

After in depth research into the community we discovered a wide diversity of the people who live there and the needs of the community both economically and socially. Some research included demographics, historic mapping, and the perception of people in the wider city of a specific community.

Monday, 28 February 2011

My PLACE: Clive Mellon

In this series, we ask practitioners, experts and enthusiasts for their take on the built environment - where are we now, how did we get here, and where are going?

We spoke to Clive Mellon, environmental expert, whose career has combined environmental policy and legislation, project management, ecological survey, site management and practical conservation.

Q. How can we plan for the environment and sustainable development?

A healthy environment is fundamental to human society for the simple reason that we depend on it for food, shelter and our general well-being - the very basics of survival. Diminishing natural resources, climate change and biodiversity loss are all huge issues which will affect the way we live in the future. Planning plays a leading role in how we manage these challenges.

The principles of sustainable development are now accepted as a key driving force of governance. Yet how often do we see these principles being side-lined for other (more short-sighted) objectives?

For planning to meet these challenges, I believe that it is time for the very purpose of planning to be modernised. 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.

We are currently witnessing a major reform of our planning system. The Planning Reform Bill will introduce a duty for practitioners “to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development.”  This is a step in the right direction, but there will need to be a clear understanding of what this means if we are to see any benefits. Decision-makers often think of sustainable development as a balancing act between the economic, social and environmental goals. Yet experience shows that balance equates to trade-off and it is very often our environment which loses out. True sustainability means that all three objectives must be met equally - challenging perhaps, but certainly not impossible. It is a concept that the planning system is well-placed to deliver.

Significant reform of the planning system does not happen every day, so we must make the most of this opportunity.  What about a right of appeal for third parties?  Even a limited concession would help to rectify the rather glaring imbalance in the planning process that its absence represents.

Planning must also play a greater part in protecting and enhancing biodiversity. After all, the new EU target is to halt all biodiversity loss AND begin to restore it by 2020.  Without the planning system stepping up to the mark we will not achieve this target.  Unfortunately PPS2 (on nature conservation) is no longer fit for purpose and we eagerly await its long overdue replacement.  The draft policy statement will be issued soon for consultation, and here is yet another opportunity to move towards true sustainability.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

My PLACE: Eunice Yeates

In this series, we ask practitioners, experts and enthusiasts for their take on the built environment - where are we now, how did we get here, and where are going?

We spoke to Eunice Yeates, a writer and editor, who has been involved with the Wordscape project for PLACE and the Verbal Arts Centre.

Are there places in Ulster that have had an impact on you?

Absolutely. In fact, when I was a child, long before I came to live in Ulster, I was captivated by the sense of place pervasive in Kavanagh’s writings about Monaghan, especially how place names were like invocations in his poetry (Mullahinsa, Drummeril, Black Shanco). Then the Ulster portrayed in MacNeice and Friel and, of course, Heaney. I discovered Van Morrison when I was a teenager, and loved how he mapped all these alluring-sounding places like Cyprus Avenue and Fitzroy and Sandy Row.

The Albert Clock viewed from Victoria Square in Belfast. Photo by Flickr user  Howard.

When I lived on the North Antrim coast in the early ‘90s I was reading a lot of John Hewitt’s poetry and thinking a great deal about the deeper implications of place in an Ulster context. Then I moved to Belfast in the mid ‘90s and was swept up in the surge of the local writing scene. There was an extraordinary energy in the wave of playwrights and novelists and poets sharing their work, and Belfast resonated with me in a way that no other place ever had.  I spent over 12 years living in North America and Asia and Africa but, in the end, I returned to settle in Belfast.

There are people who don’t understand what it is about Belfast that drew me back. It doesn’t pretend to be a beautiful city. It’s not Paris, but there’s something about this place that speaks to me; perhaps its resilience. 

I respond to the hills all around and Napoleon’s Nose sharply on the horizon; the Albert Clock at a tilt and City Hall like a wedding cake; the serenity of the tow path and the red brick of Queen’s University; the black taxis and pink buses and all the churches and bars; the garish yellow of City Hospital and of the hulking gantries; the bend in the Lagan when you cross the Ormeau Bridge and maybe see a team out crewing; I respond to all this because Belfast is a place that has claimed me.


Since October, we have been exploring the relationship between language, writing and the built environment with experts and practitioners from the fields of architecture and literature. Funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Wordscape is a joint initiative between PLACE and the Verbal Arts Centre. It will examine the context for the creation of the written word and the design of the architecture in Ulster.

Coming soon: An interactive Wordscape website, featuring writing from many of Ulster's established and emerging writers, as well as multimedia content and topical articles by experts and enthusiasts.

Monday, 18 October 2010

My PLACE: Paddy Cahill

A still from Paddy Cahill's film about Liberty Hall in Dublin
In this series, we ask practitioners, experts and enthusiasts for their take on the built environment - where are we now, how did we get here, and where are going?

This week we spoke to Paddy Cahill, Committee Member of AAI and film maker

Q. Paddy, we've recently discovered you make films. What buildings or places inspire you and your work and why?

Lots of different buildings inspire me but recently the one I got most involved in was Liberty Hall in Dublin, during and after I made a documentary about it.

My interest as a filmmaker is in the communication between architecture and the public. Many of the concepts, ideas and details that go into buildings often get lost or don’t get communicated to the public when the building is finished. All too often the people have a gut reaction to new buildings, to distrust and dislike them. Very often though their opinions can be swayed with a little background to the ideas or thoughts behind the design and purpose of the building.

Television and video are great ways to communicate these ideas in a direct and simple way. More often than not the construction of, or the history and background to buildings have great back-stories full of challenges, which is a great for storytelling in tv or video.

In the past there have not been as many opportunities for the public to engage with architecture in the way they would with other arts. This is changing with thanks to organisations like PLACE and the IAF and I think film and television can play a role in this new public appreciation for architecture too.


Related: To see Paddy’s documentary on Liberty Hall, visit his website

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

My PLACE: Stephen Pollock

In this series, we ask practitioners, experts and enthusiasts for their take on Northern Ireland's built environment - where are we now, how did we get here, and where are going?

Stephen Pollock, Roads Service, Department for Regional Development

Q. The DRD minister last week announced some major changes to traffic in central Belfast - is the car no longer the preferred mode of transport?

Last week Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy launched the consultation process for an ambitious Traffic Masterplan for Belfast city centre entitled ‘Belfast on the Move.’ This plan aims to substantially reduce traffic levels in the city centre and provide more road space for public transport, pedestrians and cyclists.

Around 30,000 vehicles per day travel through the city centre on the streets either side of City Hall. About 60% of this is through traffic, with no final destination in the city centre, causing needless congestion.

By providing the alternatives and promoting their use, we can encourage people to change how they travel. As they switch in significant enough numbers, congestion can be reduced and business, the economy and the environment will all benefit, and whilst we need to continue to provide real alternatives to the car, we also need people to choose to use them. We need behavioural change.

That said, we have to be pragmatic. There is a balance to be struck. Transport needs to be a catalyst for growth, not a constraint. We need to have the right infrastructure to allow people and goods to move, supporting our economies as we move out of recession.

The vision for Belfast is to achieve a city centre where access by public transport is given a much higher priority than at present and a street environment tailored to the needs of pedestrians rather than the private car.


Related: Further details on the proposals can be found on the Belfast On The Move website

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

My PLACE: Alan Jones

In a new series, we ask practitioners, experts and enthusiasts for their take on Northern Ireland's built environment - where are we now, how did we get here, and where are going?

Alan Jones, Director of Education (Architecture) at Queen's University Belfast

Q. Are we training too many architects?

European architectural education is regularising to a three year undergraduate degree and two year Masters degree, increasing mobility of students and sideways moves after the first degree into disciplines including Construction & Project Management, Sustainable Design and Planning. Whist many continue on the route to becoming an architect this three plus two structure has been the normal arrangement within RIBA and ARB validated courses with the first degree considered a wide undergraduate education with many transferable skills. The hope expressed by professional bodies is the more graduates that have an introductory education in architecture the more likely the discipline will benefit in the long term.

Applications to Queens architecture programmes remain plentiful, with students taking the long view that the economic climate will improve by their graduation. Parents and students are enquiring about the history and reputation of the institution and the relationship with the industry and profession - suggesting a heightened sensitivity to employablity of graduates. Recent statistics suggest more employers are shortlisting on degree result, good news for 2010 Queen’s graduates - with over 85% obtaining a first or 2-1 degree. This result reflects students’ awareness of the need to have good results and good work in their interview portfolio.


Related: Check out the Architecture Centre Network's series "What next for Architecture graduates?"

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

My PLACE: Arthur Acheson

In a new series, we ask practitioners, experts and enthusiasts for their take on Northern Ireland's built environment - where are we now, how did we get here, and where are going?

Arthur, you have recently been appointed chair of MAG - what is your vision for Northern Ireland?


1. Just do it - we built great ships here when feasibility studies and economic appraisals would have shown that we had no chance of success.

2. Keep flexible - we are still small enough to take risks.  Commercial companies see us as a great place to experiment before launching programmes across the wider region - if it works here then they know it will work elsewhere.  We must learn from this and try things out ourselves.  I have found people willing to live and work in ways they would not have imagined - the first penthouses ever in Northern Ireland were the most expensive in the block - and the first to sell.  We could have monthly Culture Nights in Belfast for 47 years for the price of new paving in the city centre - and have new paving out of the profits.

3. Keep seeing the bigger picture - there is a world out there where huge numbers of people are living in conditions of poverty which are not imaginable in Northern Ireland.

5. Stop taking ourselves so seriously - nobody else does.

4. There is no number 4 because that would be too orderly

and... nobody listens to me anyway!

Arthur reminds us that his response is a personal statement and does not necessarily represent the views of the MAG or his position as Chair.


Related: Download the MAG's Raising Expectations report from the PLACE website - MAG - Raising Expectations [PDF, 420KB]