I have been back in the states or about two and a half weeks now.
Here are some photos that help to summarize my experience and give it some critical visual context.
Nightly public presentations/critiques of work done by students and the think tank, Forum for an Alternative Belfast. On the wall, Aoife is presenting the large map that shows all the vacant or dilapidated spaces in the city. This visual statement provokes new perspectives of the socio-spatial divides throughout the city and opens up new discussions about city development and regeneration.
A new statue along the River Lagan in Thanksgiving Square that is meant to symbolize a “a better tomorrow for all of us.” Somewhat controversial, many people have embraced that statue, and many others think it is just an oversized basketball hoop no meaning in relation to its context. The background of the photo shows lots of construction still being completed along the river. The Laganside Corporation, a non-departmental public body, formed in 1989 with the goal of regenerating the area adjacent to the river. Many of Laganside’s projects are completed, such as the Lagan weir, the Waterfront Hall, the Odyssey Arena and the Gasworks site.
I hope this helps to give a little bit more visual context to my blog. I also hope update occasionally throughout the semester as I work on my thesis.
For my thesis, I will be designing an inclusive non-sectarian community space on the edge of Donegall Pass along the Ormeau Road. I aim to address the local needs of the community, which has seen a lot of recent decline and change, but also to strategically open up new connections to the rest of the city, such as the Markets and the Lower Ormeau. Although adjacent to a lot of activity as it is between the university area and the city centre, Donegall Pass has suffered from isolation. As new and somewhat insular developments have been completed that serve a new demographic, many existing residents have gotten the sense that they are “being squeezed in order to be squeezed out.” I hope to offer a sample scheme that provides the community with services that it needs, and strategically places those services in a location to foster a crucial connection to the rest of the city, while being sensitive to access, permeability, identities and security.
Overall, my experience in Belfast was great- I learned more than I expected, but (sorry to sound excessively cliche) there was more to learn that I could have imagined. It took me a good four weeks of digesting and grappling with all of the existing social, spatial and political dynamics before I felt prepared to even pick a specific site to focus on. I could really use a few more weeks of research in Belfast, but have no choice but to plunge ahead and tackle my thesis from here at the Ford.