Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts

Monday, 5 January 2015

PLACE: 2014 in Review


PLACE continues to develop its Vacant to Vibrant campaign to highlight the opportunities for our town centres.

In March, PLACE held Vacant to Vibrant: Exchange at the Strand Arts Centre. This two-day symposium explored international and local solutions to vacancy. Decision makers, academics, artists and urbanists came together to share inspiring projects and strategies that transformed places and spaces.

The symposium also marked the launch of a new PLACE publication. 'Vacant to Vibrant: Rethinking Town Centres' features case studies of projects tackling vacancy and essays examining the issue in terms of culture, urban policy, commerce, and activism.

Following the symposium PLACE launched a new public space and office at Lower Garfield Street. With support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, a long-term vacant retail unit has been transformed into a bright, modern multi-purpose space enabling PLACE to continue delivering quality built environment projects.

PLACE launched a new multi-purpose public
space at Lower Garfield Street in June 2014.

Open Source Belfast returned in April 2014 during the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival to bring life to an empty space at Commercial Court.

Vacant to Vibrant Antrim took over more than 15,000sq ft within a vacant two-storey building in the centre of Antrim, which was generously donated by Karl Asset Management. During July and August, the space provided young people aged 16-25 a free space to showcase their talent and bring vibrancy to the town centre as part of PLACE’s partnership with somewhereto_ and the Enkalon Foundation.

Vacant to Vibrant Antrim reanimated more than 15,000sq ft
of empty space in partnership with Karl Asset Management,
somewhereto_ and the Enkalon Foundation.


Throughout March and April, PLACE ran a series of workshops across Northern Ireland aimed at introducing and outlining the concepts and principles of the DOE’s Living Places Urban Stewardship and Design Guide. This was followed, in September, by the Living Places symposium to coincide with the launch of the document. The event opened with Minister Mark H Durkan officially launching the design guide. James Hennessey (The Paul Hogarth Company) then provided background to the development of the guidance and Michael Corr (PLACE) highlighted the main issues to arise from the Living Places Training Workshops (delivered by PLACE in March 2014). 

Living Places Launch Symposium. L - R: Michael Corr (Director, PLACE),
Minister Mark H Durkan MLA (DoE Minister), Suzanne Wylie (Chief-
Executive, Belfast City Council, James Hennessey (Associate Director,
The Paul Hogarth Company).

Following a short break, Suzanne Wylie (Chief Executive, Belfast City Council provided an overview of how local government will benefit from the guidance and Lara Kinneir (Member, MAG) reflected on experience working with Design for London. Darran Crawford (Scottish National Parks) highlighted the Scotland's Creating Places document and the use of design charrettes to accompany the Scottish guidance.


The opening of PLACE’s new premises in June coincided with the 10th anniversary of the founding of the organisation. To mark this milestone the 10 Years of PLACE exhibition looked back on the previous 10 years of innovation and collaboration to make better places across Northern Ireland. 

10 Years of PLACE was an exhibition looking back on the
past 10 years of the organisation.

Lamps on Lower Garfield Street was a street light installation during Culture Night Belfast to highlight the important pedestrian link between the commercial area of Royal Avenue and the vibrant cultural activities of the Cathedral Quarter.

In October 2014, PLACE curated an exhibition, hosted by the Golden Thread Gallery, documenting representations of Craigavon in the 50 years since its founding. The exhibtion ‘Craigavon New Town: 50 Years of Modernity' was centred on the work of visual artist Victor Sloan, whose photography from the 1970s until the present day was displayed alongside selected archival materials that tell the story and inspiration for the town. The opposition of Sloan’s uneasy imagery of life in a new city with the idealist, utopian visual culture of 1960s town planning, tells the story of a place in which quotidian normality is layered on top of the absurdity of the project’s unrealised ambition. The exhibition was created with support from the British Council and formed part of the Absorbing Modernity mini-festival, which is the regional response to the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale.


The PLACE Urban Walks expanded across Northern Ireland in 2014 with the support of the NGO Challenge Fund, exploring new themes and locations.

The Place-Making Podcast continued with a free 3-day training workshop for those interested in using podcasting and broadcasting to discuss architecture, urban design and built environment issues.

Know Your Place provided young people with the opportunity to capture and explore local built heritage through digital media in Belfast, Bangor and Killough.

Know Your Place Belfast explored some of the
city's most well known heritage buildings, including
Carlisle Memorial Church (pictured above).

PLACE and the Architecture Foundation brought Urban Pioneers to Derry~Londonderry to engage young people and empower them to critically explore the built environment and develop new skills through workshops led by creative professionals.

The 3rd annual PLACE Urban Design Summer Academy brought young people aged 14 - 19 together in Craigavon to explore the architectural ideas and utopian ideals that to the creation of Northern Ireland’s only ‘new town’.


Vacant to Vibrant: Rethinking Town Centres is a collection of essays and articles, reflecting a diversity of opinions, ideas and provocations - embracing everything from artistic practice to local government, examining the subject of vacancy.

Craigavon New Town documents the story of Northern Ireland's only 'new town'. It charts the settlement from the perspective of the people who live there, many who moved there nearly fifty years ago, setting up home in what was then a great social experiment. Anecdotes and memory track the process from the mid-60s displacement of local farmers, through the years of construction, excitement, and prosperity that quickly gave way to decline and dereliction, and the eventual resurgence that is driven by shared identity and belonging newly forged in a place called Brownlow.

Craigavon New Town was launched in 2014 to document the
story of Northern Ireland's only 'new town'.

How to Design a Building introduces children to the subject of architecture and the different things that an architect has to think about when they are designing a building. This book was written and illustrated by Dr Jenny Russell.

An Inventory of Space in Derry~Londonderry is a publication based on work by participants in the Derry~Londonderry Urban Pioneers programme - a programme delivered by PLACE and the Architecture Foundation.


The board and staff at PLACE said farewell to their colleague Conor McCafferty, who, after working at PLACE for four years and leading on many successful projects, has left to pursue a PhD at the Sonic Arts Research Centre at QUB, under the supervision of Drs Sarah Lappin (SPACE) and Gascia Ouzounian (SARC) as part of their Recomposing the City project.

In July, PLACE welcomed Maggie McKeever to the team as a Creative Assistant. Maggie has a degree in Fine Art, from the National College of Art & Design, Dublin and an MA in Cultural Policy & Arts Management from University College Dublin. Maggie has undertaken roles such as arts manager, facilitator, curator, artist and administrator, including experience in Arts events management with UK City of Culture Derry~Londonderry 2013; the Verbal Arts Centre, Body & Soul Festival and the LAB gallery, Dublin.

In November, Bridghin Farren joined the PLACE team as Creative Producer. Bridghin has completed a BA in Sculpture and Combined Media at the Limerick School of Art and Design, and an MA in Contemporary Dance Performance at the University of Limerick. She moved to Belfast in 2007 to take up the directorship at Catalyst Arts, and afterwards co-founded the creative project Brown&Bri with Rachel Brown. As part of that work she has completed and presented research into Belfast’s empty buildings, and built and ran a cafe-bar on a barge for two years - both performative actions made in response to underused space in Belfast City centre. She has worked as Curator at Belfast Exposed Photography and Arts Co-ordinator with Belfast City Council. Her research interests include using fiction, theatre and staging to map a city’s history, geometry and space travel.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A Review of Chris Ware's 'Building Stories'

PLACE Volunteer Andrew Molloy reviews 'Building Stories' by Chris Ware ahead of our first event in the Urban Library Series. Artist and Architect Marcus Patton will explore the literature that has influenced his work and shaped the built environment on Thursday 1st November at 6.30pm. Free but booking essential at

The medium of the comic book has long been derided as a medium for children, the ‘nerd,’ or the intellectually impaired. Despite the best efforts of writers such as Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore, combined with the broadsheets rebranding of the rather untoward sounding ‘adult comic book’ with the haughty term ‘graphic novel,’ the perception of the comic as a conveyor of nothing other than empty-headed titillation still holds sway. A new epic graphic novel by Chris Ware stands in direct opposition to this.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Review: Rem Koolhaas - A Kind of Architect

By Eva McDermott

Escalator in Koolhaas' Seattle Central Library - from WatNielsen on Flickr

The past decade has seen Rem Koolhaas’s steady rise to ‘superstar’ architect status. Winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize among others, he was recently named in Times top 100 World’s Most Influential People. So it wasn’t surprising Belfast’s architectural community took interest when Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect screened in the Black Box as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. Introduced by Todd Architects, the screening was moved from the intimate Black Box cafe to the main performance space to cope with demand.

The film makers seem to understand the visual appetite of their audience and A Kind of Architect dashes through Koolhaas’ early life with speedy cuts and surreal animated montages that wouldn’t look out of place in a Monty Python show. The son of an influential writer, Koolhaas initially studied scriptwriting and was involved in making the most expensive film ever produced in the Netherlands, the White Slave. Unfortunately it bombed and Koolhaas turned to journalism, writing social commentary for the Haagse Post before heading to London to begin his architectural studies in 1968.

During his time in London he wrote extensively on the city as an entity and published some controversial papers including explorations of the notion of enclosure, using the Berlin Wall as a starting point. If part of a city is enclosed, ghetto-esque, and all the inhabitants outside are told how wonderful it is inside the walls, will they cease to be satisfied until they too are enclosed within? Narrated by two German voices, soundbite phrases like ‘modulate reality’ are frequently used in the subtitles sitting beneath images of Koolhaas’s theoretical studies and early villa work. Unfortunately, after a while the constant jargon begins to grate and it becomes an effort to keep up with the subtitles.

Thankfully the later two thirds of the film is made up of interviews with members of the happy OMA (The Office for Metropolitan Architecture) family and Koolhaas himself, interspersed with videos and images of Koolhaas’s back catalogue and future projects. OMA was set up in 1975 by Koolhaas and three colleagues and put a firm emphasis on the abstract and theoretical aspects of architecture. So much so that a splinter company, AMO, was formed purely as a think tank to further Koolhaas ideas and investigations that could feed back into the OMA design process.

At just over an hour and a half, A Kind of Architect feels overlong. After the magic of a wandering shot through Porto’s Casa da Musica, the remaining film follows a repeating pattern of OMA interview, achingly cool photomontage, OMA interview, tracking shot of project, OMA interview, photomontage, OMA interview and repeat. The interviews with OMA staff, while giving an interesting insight into the inner workings of Koolhaas’s practice, descend almost into sycophantic meanderings towards the end, giving the air of a Koolhaas propaganda film more than an entertaining and informative look at one of today’s more influential architects.

The last project looked at is the flagship Beijing headquarters for Central China Television which is being run by the newest office, OMA Beijing. Koolhaas himself bemoans the restrictions and loss of faith in architecture he encountered in America and has instead begun to look towards the Far East for progress. When the question of working with a totalitarian regime with a dubious human rights record is raised, the film’s response is to draw a subtle comparison between the CCTV’s new control room and the Panopticon Prison Koolhaas worked on in Arnhem. Both designed to keep an eye on everyone, it can only be hoped that this was a deliberate touch by Koolhaas and a sign he hasn’t lost his critical zealous.

Eva McDermott is an architect working in Dublin and Belfast.


Related: "Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect" from the Alan in Belfast blog

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