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!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Connecting Places: Bus Rapid Transit - panacea or placebo?

In this 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
Article by Aaron Coulter and Gary Potter

The deadline to be involved in the public consultation on Belfast's proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes is coming to a close on 6th January 2012. The routes and accompanying documentation can be viewed until 6th January in the city centre at Department for Regional Development, and in East and West Belfast at the East Belfast Partnership and West Belfast Partnership respectively.

Transport Minister Danny Kennedy, in outlining the reasoning for the introduction of a BRT system,  states:
"We need a transportation system that can accommodate the future demands of Belfast, both its people and businesses. We need to reprioritise how we travel and change our travel behaviour to encourage a shift away from the private car and towards public transport. By working together we can make public transport, into, within and across Belfast, safer, cleaner and more attractive for everyone."

It would be hard to find fault with the statement above, but as the deadline for public consultation on the proposed routes draws near, one key question comes to the fore: will the BRT be the cure to Belfast's transportation woes?

Bus Rapid Transit - the solution?
Google Images

Thursday, 22 December 2011

New Routemaster hits the streets of London: NI Creative Industries at work

The new routemaster. Image via Magnus D on Flickr.

The new Routemaster is on the streets of London, designed by Heatherwick Studio and built in Northern Ireland by Wrightbus.

"This demonstrates in a very visible way the value of the Creative Industries as supported by the current Programme for Government," says PLACE Director Michael Hegarty. "Architecture and public spaces are also currently being designed here for cities such as Copenhagen."

Read More
Fast Code Design: "London's Futuristic New Double-Decker Bus Hits The Streets" (Dec 21st 2011)
Northern Builder Magazine: Profile of Hackett Hall McKnight Architects (Issue 2, 2011)

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Save Dublin's Cycle Officer

It was announced last week that Dublin is set to lose its Cycling Officer, Ciaran Fallon. He is currently the only Cycling Officer in any of the City Councils in Ireland. This position played a key role in promoting cycling in the city, just recently voted 9th most bike friendly city in the world by Copenhagenize (Irish Times, September 2011). If the post is lost it will be a devastating blow for cycling in Dublin. But it could also set a trend for decision makers in Northern Ireland.

There's an online petition which can let you show your support for improving cycling in Dublin and beyond.

Full details via The Irish Times:

Online petition:
Campaign Informaton:
Twitter: #dublincycling

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Call for Participation for the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale

Venice Takeaway: Ideas to Change British Architecture

The British Pavillion in Venice. Image courtesy British Council.
The British Pavilion at the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale will be the culmination of an ambitious global research project designed to make an original and far-reaching contribution to the debate about architecture in the UK.

The Pavilion will provide an injection of new ideas based on the collective research of architects, students, writers, critics and academics. The research will focus on what - and who - makes great architecture; considering issues such as construction, housing, planning, culture, education, procurement, architectural competitions and the role of the client.

On Thursday 19th January 2012 at 5.30pm an open call for participation and proposals will be launched at PLACE, 40 Fountain Street, Belfast - followed by a discussion about the brief aimed at involving a wide-range of contributors.

All those who wish to find out more are welcome to attend the event. Booking is essential: click here to register.

In March the best proposals will be selected and around ten individuals or teams will travel to unearth case studies in locations around the world.

Each ‘Explorer’ will conduct interviews and uncover how, and why something works. Explorers will be tasked with bringing back material including film, photography, writing and drawing. The exhibition will tell their stories and make a series of proposals for changing British architecture.

Venice Takeaway will build on the UK’s history of looking to the rest of the world for inspiration and ideas. Trade voyages shaped the modern world; not only filling museums, botanical gardens and markets but also changing the way we think and introducing ideas that have become part of our culture. Today the flow of ideas is made possible by the travels of architects and by overseas students who come to the UK to study, and often stay to establish their own design studios or to work for British practices.

By discovering the best ideas from around the world it is hoped that the British Pavilion will make an original contribution to the debate about architecture in the UK and influence the future direction of policy and practice at a moment of flux.

Venice Takeaway is curated by Vicky Richardson, Director of Architecture, Design, Fashion at the British Council and Vanessa Norwood, Head of Exhibitions at the Architectural Association.

Vicky Richardson says: ‘We have many good designers in the UK, but the systems and structures surrounding architecture need change. Everyone who has travelled will recognise the feeling of envy when you see a good idea. The British Pavilion aims to gather the best of these and bring them back to the UK.’

Tuesday 10 January, 6-7.30pm
Architectural Association, The New Soft Room, 36 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3ES

Thursday 12 January
Playfair Library Hall, Old College, University of Edinburgh, South Bridge, Edinburgh EH8 9YL

Wednesday 18 January, 6-7.30pm
Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Castle Grounds, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3ER

Thursday 19 January, 5.30-7pm
PLACE, 40 Fountain Street, Belfast BT1 5EE
Register for this event here


Advisory Panel
The British Council works with an advisory panel of leading architecture professionals across the UK which assists with the selection for the Venice Biennale every two years. For further information please visit

Chair: Vicky Richardson, Director of Architecture, Design, Fashion at the British Council
David Anderson, Director General of the National Museum Wales
Ian Gilzean, Chief Architect, Scottish Executive
Penny Lewis, Course leader, Masters in Architecture, Robert Gordon University School of Architecture
Ciaran Mackel, Architect, Ard Mackel Architects
Fred Scott, Author, On Altering Architecture
Brett Steele, Director of the Architectural Association School of Architecture and AA Publications
Finn Williams, Founder of Common Office and Deputy Leader of Placemaking Team at Croydon Council

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Connecting Places: What is the cost of free parking?

In this 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

Last week Transport Minister Danny Kennedy announced free on-street parking in Belfast, Lisburn and Newry city centres, coming into effect from Monday 5th December until 24th December, with fees being suspended from 4.30pm Monday to Friday and all day on Saturdays.

The decision has been largely met with approval by consumers and retailers alike, with retailers anticipating an increase in sales in the run up to Christmas due to the perceived ease of access to the city centre for those arriving by car.

However, is there a cost associated with free parking, and if so, what is it?

'No Coins? No Problem!'

Friday, 2 December 2011

'Plan It!' Friends of the Earth event - 14th December

Click the flyer to enlarge
This is your first chance to hear the results of the 2011 planning survey commissioned by Friends of the Earth. This will be followed by an afternoon of lively debate on the purpose of planning; networking between professionals, individuals and groups; a chance to hear examples of good and poor planning - interspersed with the odd sermon and confession.

Friends of the Earth will also outline the next steps in their planning campaign.

Date: Wednesday 14th December 2011
Time: 1pm- 4pm
Venue: First Presbyterian Church, Rosemary Street, Belfast BT1 1QB

Speakers include: Frank McDonald, Environment Editor, The Irish Times, and Dr. Geraint Ellis of Queens University, Belfast, author of the planning survey and report.

Light lunch served at 1pm. Event Followed by mulled wine and mince pies.

Booking essential: contact Fiona Joyce at Friends of the Earth ([email protected])

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

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."

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Internships in Restoration of Cultural Heritage

If you enjoyed the exhibition 'Revival' held at PLACE and are interested in conservation and restoration of cultural heritage, there are a number of international institutions providing internships to graduates in architecture, archaeology, art history, urban planning and engineering.

ICCROM is an intergovernmental organization, based in Rome, dedicated to the conservation of cultural heritage that aims at improving the quality of conservation practice as well as raising awareness about the importance of preserving cultural heritage. ICCROM hosts up to four interns per calendar year, each of the internships lasting normally for a period of two to six months and held in Italy.

Photo by PhillipC on

ICOMOS, the International Council of Monuments and Sites, works for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage places. It is a network of experts that benefits from the interdisciplinary exchange of its members, among which are architects, historians,archaeologists, art historians, geographers, anthropologists,engineers and town planners.
The UNESCO World heritage centre, known mainly for the compilation of the 'World Heritage List', provides very exciting internship opportunities, around the world.
Find out more :

Photo by Archer10 on

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Impact 2012 Awards Open for Entries

Click the flyer above to enlarge.

The Impact 2012 Awards celebrate the achievements of young people in helping to improve our economy, our society and our environment.

Have you, or has someone you know, made an impact that deserves to be recognised? If so, entry is free and this is your chance to showcase work that you’re proud of.

Following the success of Impact 2010, there are now several new categories with 14 awards up for grabs this year from enterprise and transport, culture and sport, to our built environment.

The awards are open to everyone under 25 years old who is involved in a relevant project that deserves recognition at a prestigious awards event.

Find out more:

Peripheries Conference - Opening Lecture - 27th Oct

Click to enlarge the flyer.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

University of Ulster students in Derry~Londonderry

PLACE hosted a research review today for Year 5 University of Ulster Architecture students. The students, led by lecturers Saul Golden and Emily Smyth, presented mapping investigations about the city to architects Mary Kerrigan and Michael Hegarty, and University of Ulster urban design PhD student Deirdre Greaney.

The entrance to Artillery Chambers on Artillery Street in Derry, which PLACE is temporarily programming with support from Caldwell & Robinson Solicitors.

The students from University of Ulster have been investigating various sites around Derry City in preparation for their Year 5 design project.

The students produced a complex map and model of the city as part of their initial research, on display at today's review.

Our thanks are due to Caldwell & Robinson for their kind support and use of their premises, and to the Playhouse Theatre for use of their equipment.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Call for expressions of interest: Architects-in-Practice working with Architects-in-Education

Click to enlarge
PLACE is pleased to announce a new partnership with the University of Ulster and The Higher Education Academy, aimed at encouraging crossovers between architects in practice and those working in universities. A call for expressions of interest is ongoing - closing date 7th Nov 2011. Click the flyer above for more details.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Peripheries Conference

A message from Professor Ruth Morrow on the Peripheries conference taking place at Queen's from 27th-29th of October.

Queen's University Belfast is proud to host Peripheries, the 8th annual Architectural Humanities Research Association Conference 27-29 October 2011. The international event will include papers and short films presented by delegates from Europe, North and South America, the Middle East and Australia and New Zealand. We are delighted to announce that Professor M Christine Boyer, Princeton University will act as our Wrap-Up Chair for the conference; she joins a host of architects, poets, writers, historians and academics who will also act as keynote speakers:

- Professor Ciaran Carson, Poet, Queen's University Belfast
- Professor Kim Dovey, University of Melbourne
- Mary Arnold-Forster, Dualchas Architects, Scotland
- Professor Murray Fraser, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL
- Dr. Paul Larmour, Queen's University Belfast
- Professor Ruth Morrow, Queen's University Belfast
- Dr. William Roulston, Ulster Historical Foundation
- Tarla MacGabhann, MacGabhann Architects, Donegal
- Glenn Patterson, author, Belfast
- Shih-fu Peng, heneghan.peng.architects, Dublin

We are also pleased that a parallel event, a symposium on the Irish Kevin Kieran Award for architectural design and research will be held on Saturday 29 October 2011. Also interwoven amongst the papers and keynotes is an architecturally-themed film festival as part of the Belfast Festival at Queen's.

Please see our website for details on the event and on types of registration available. We look forward to welcoming you in Belfast this month for three exciting days of debate, discussion and exchange.

Queen's University Belfast is offering a special rate for RSUA, RIAI and AAI members to Peripheries.

The special rate of £120 will include access to the Friday 28 and Saturday 29 October 2011 paper sessions, including the parallel Kevin Kieran Award Symposium.  Please note that this rate only applies to those who are not presenting papers and does not include receptions, films, or copy of the AHRA 2010 Critiques Series book.

Find out more about the conference: QUB - Peripheries 2011 Conference - 27th-29th October

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

PLACE Pocket Park at Culture Night Belfast 2011

This year in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast, as part of Culture Night, PLACE creatively adapted several on street parking spaces into a small ‘Pocket Park’ inspired by the international Park(ing) Day

'Pocket Park' - part of Culture Night Belfast 2011.

The ‘Pocket Park’ aimed to highlight the lack of quality urban open space within Belfast, green and otherwise and to raise an awareness of the spatial opportunity cost that occurs when private cars are brought into the city centre.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

"Mind the Gap" - a response to the FAB Summer School 2011 by John Graham

Architect John Graham gives his take on the Forum for Alternative Belfast Summer School 2011, which ran during August at Queen's. For background, see the series of PLACE reports on the event by Gary Potter.

3 years on from the enthusiastic beginnings the Summer School continues to face challenges those in possession of the brief seem too entangled in their own field to face into. The Summer school brought around this time sponsors in the form of the actual bodies tasked with collating and obtaining outcomes. The DOE, DRD, BCC, SBP, CRA, SMA and lobbyists,quangos were aboard for part of this 'third party' journey.

The thesis was alleged to be given by South Belfast Partnership but had many authors in essence. The failure to create consensus forming pathways, such as a functioning democracy, a city council with a proper function, urban, rural and transport integrated planning and strategies signed off on, all lead into a predicament where the good intentions of external groups have to take the lead into areas which have habitually proprietorial and aggressively static and fearful of vision and collaboration.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Timber Conference Speaker Profile: Mike Glennon

Mike Glennon discusses "Using Home Grown Timber" at the PLACE & Wood NI conference on Wednesday 12th October: Timber Construction & Design in Northern Ireland - Using Sustainable and Renewable Materials.

Above: Mike Glennon of Glennon Brothers

Mike Glennon is joint managing director of Glennon Brothers and has over 25 years experience in the timber trade, having joined the company in 1985. Along with his brother, Pat, he oversees this third generation, family business, with a turnover in excess of €85m and employing over 340 people directly. Glennon Brothers provides a wide range of timber products, offering its customers a ‘one-stop shop’ for sawn softwood in the British Isles.

In October 2009, Glennon Brothers became the first sawmill in Ireland or the UK to supply timber to France. In 2010, Mike and Pat were named Industry Entrepreneurs of the Year at the Ernst & Young Ireland Entrepreneur of the Year awards.


Download the conference flyer [PDF, 80kb]

- Find out more and book your place: click here.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Is the architect obsolete?

Doug Patt, howtoarchitect on YouTube, wonders whether architects may be obsolete and considers the three things they still provide clients may always be looking for.

More support needed for local timber and renewable products, says leading architect

A former Professor of Architecture at Queen’s University Belfast has called on leading bodies to support the local timber industry. Tom Woolley feels that timber buildings are less common in Northern Ireland than elsewhere because there is ignorance about the merits of timber among architects and the wider construction industry.

Above: Professor Tom Woolley
“Timber construction is more more sustainable and environmentally friendly than cement and concrete”, says Tom Woolley, who was Professor at QUB between 1991 and 2007. “Concrete has been unfairly subsidised due to the Aggregates Levy Credit Scheme, which is now coming to an end. More support should be given to local timber and the renewable products which are now available to use.”

“The Northern Ireland Construction Industry Group does a good job promoting the interests of cement and concrete, as well as the wider construction industry - but has not done enough on the sustainability agenda,” says Professor Woolley. “The Quarry Products Association acts as a secretariat to the Northern Ireland Assembly Construction Group. MLAs need to know more about the benefits of timber.”

Professor Woolley will chair an upcoming conference organised by PLACE Architecture Centre and Wood-NI on 12th October at the Ulster Hall, exploring the future of timber construction in Northern Ireland.

“Our aim is to bring all the different people with an interest in timber frame buildings and wood based products to strengthen knowledge and support for the design, aesthetic, health and environmental benefits of wood,” says Professor Woolley.

The conference will feature speakers including prominent architects Glenn Howells and John Gilbert, who have designed many innovative timber frame buildings in England and Scotland. Delegates will also be given a policy briefing by the Forest Service.

Other speakers will highlight case studies of timber buildings in Ireland and Northern Ireland and show examples of innovative and sustainable timber products, materials and construction methods. These will feature the new Tesco store in Newtownards and several low energy housing projects. The conference is organised by PLACE Architecture Centre in conjunction with WoodNI and has been sponsored by a number of key organisations.


- Download the conference flyer [PDF, 80kb]

- PLACE & Wood-NI: Timber Construction & Design in Northern Ireland conference

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Timber Conference Speaker Profile: Glenn Howells

Architect Glenn Howells gives the keynote presentation at the PLACE & Wood NI conference on Wednesday 12th October: Timber Construction & Design in Northern Ireland - Using Sustainable and Renewable Materials. His presentation will focus on innovative timber projects in England.

Above: Glenn Howells, keynote speaker at the PLACE & Wood NI Timber Conference on 12th October
Glenn Howells is the founding director of Glenn Howells Architects and established the practice in 1990.  Glenn has led the practice to win numerous major design competitions and awards for a diverse range of building types including residential, commercial, urban regeneration, education and arts projects.

Glenn is on CABE's LOCOG Design Review Panel (The London Organising Committee of Olympic Games). He is Chair of MADE (Midlands Architecture and the Designed Environment) and also Chair of the IKON Gallery in Birmingham.  Glenn advises Birmingham City Council and is an ambassador for the West Midlands.  He sits on the Warwick University Board and is Chair of the Warwick University Building Committee.

Above: The Downland Grid Shell building by Glenn Howells Architects
In the academic field, Glenn is a visiting Professor at Nottingham Trent University, an external examiner at Sheffield Hallam University and a lecturer at the Centre of Alternative Technology in Wales.  He was previously an external examiner at the University of Nottingham and Queen's University, Belfast.

Download the conference flyer [PDF, 80kb]

Find out more and book your place: click here.