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ALTER YOUR NATIVE BELFAST // ALTERNATIVE BELFAST

Competition First Place, "Political Response" for: Open Architecture Challenge: [UN]Restricted Access
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ALTER YOUR NATIVE BELFAST//ALTERNATIVE BELFAST
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E Q U I T Y
Equity is ensuring that all sections of society have equal opportunities to participate in the economic, political and social life through redressing inequalities arising independently from people’s choices.

D I V E R S I T Y
Diversity is acknowledging how our differences as individual human beings and as members of society can improve the quality of all our lives

I N T E R D E P E N D E N C E
Interdependence is recognising that we are shaped by our relationships and that our potential as human beings and as a society is dependent on the quality of our relationships with one another

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PROLOGUE

"The Peaceline will be a very, very temporary affair..."
British Army GOC Sir Ian Freeland, Sept, 10th 1969

On the 31st of August 1994, the IRA announced a ceasefire of military actions, followed by the UVF, LVF and UDA. At that time there were 15 recognised Peacewalls in Belfast, 14 years later there are over 40 - and they are still growing in number, length and height.

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OUTLINE: PLATFORUM
The proposal is envisaged as the first stage in a series of events/interventions which will lead to the erosion of the wall. We propose the installation of a Plat-Forum, a neutral space balanced on bend in the wall in which common space can be established and plans can be formulated for the events leading towards destruction.

The project will be a shared and open space where every view is respected but equally where every view can be challenged. A Place where opportunities are presented and created equally, no matter who you are or where you live.

TRANSITION ARCHITECTURE
The project will be a time based piece of architecture focusing on the Cupar Way Peacewall dividing a significant section of Belfast’s Catholic and Protestant communities.
It will follow the structure of:

EVENT>ARCHITECTURE> TRANSITION> CHANGE > DESTRUCTION.

It will be a wholly community led initiative with an emphasis on activities for young people (10-21) who are particularly vulnerable to violence, crime and the influence of paramilitary / criminal gangs on the interface.

The wall will be altered incrementally through gradual changes creating a series of states; these states / events will contribute to the process of destruction. The work will be carried out by a construction team and the community, who will design, direct and labour on the project.

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There are three guiding principles to the works:

1 - The spaces created must be truly neutral, the wall is the site-therefore the architecture must not touch the territory of either community.

2 - Whatever is constructed must not reinforce division or the wall - the material of the wall should be used in this process.

3 - The events must eventually lead to the destruction of the Peacewall.

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This proposal aims to provide the:
Transition [architecture] to change this trend, a process of
alteration, changeover, conversion, development, evolution, flux, growth, metamorphosis, metastasis, passage, passing, progress, progression, realignment, shift, transformation, transit, transmutation, turning and upheaval

PROJECT PARTNERS / CLIENTS

FALLS COMMUNITY COUNCIL (CATHOLIC)

SHANKILL & GLENCAIRN COMMUNITY SCHEME (PROTESTANT)

INTERACTION BELFAST (NEUTRAL PARTY)

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Because it is impossible to predict how the community might alter the wall, the drawings shown on the presentation board represent one imagined route to destruction following the introduction of the
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RATIONALE
There is substantial evidence in local research of mutual fear and suspicion. Identities are asserted defensively and via exclusion rather than openly and via engagement. Residents value their distinctiveness, so relationships can sometimes be strained as people engage in the ongoing struggle to maintain their identity and equitably share physical space and everyday lives.

There is a paradoxical belief that the walls can only come down once integration has progressed; we need to re-interpret the wall, changing it from a negative barrier to something which provides the security and confidence for communities to make those first steps towards a pluralist society.

Few people believe that political accommodation has resulted in real peace. The actual work of reconciliation and building peace is only beginning. In Belfast, this will mean untangling intricate networks of attitudes and behaviour that have caused divisions within the city for generations.

The issues to be addressed are complex; research shows that interface communities continue to experience high levels of disadvantage in terms of restricted access to facilities and services, economic and environmental blight and lack of adequate support for community groups, for example in providing services for young people and the unemployed. On the Shankill / Falls divide there is evidence that communities are finding it difficult to come to terms with the legacies of the past, there are issues with regards to freedom of movement in accessing facilities and services, levels of tension, intimidation, violence, and low levels of inter-community dialogue

There is a clear correlation between areas with high levels of political violence and social disadvantage in Northern Ireland; the direct costs of violence have largely been borne by the most deprived urban areas. It is no coincidence that most of the Troubles related deaths and paramilitary activity took place in the poorest areas and only if poverty and social exclusion are tackled will the root causes of violence be removed.

Substantial numbers of both communities are locked into a cycle of deprivation, in an underclass where poverty is increasingly an inherited condition.

Focusing on all of these strategic issues is key to the process of coming fully out of conflict so that everyone can take advantage of the opportunities presented by peace

Many believe that we have two choices with regards to moving forward, whether our ambition is to continue to manage disorder or to transform the relationships amongst the communities. But perhaps it is possible to do both? This project aims to provide the structure for this social (re)evolution?

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AIMS
The project is designed around the principles of participation, openness, shared ownership, representation and mutual respect. A key element of the scheme is to facilitate networks and to develop relationships that will proactively promote positive change both at an individual level and between communities.

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The scheme is designed around the key elements of the EU Peace III programme.

1- Securing Shared city space
2- Transforming contested space
3- Developing shared cultural space

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SECURING SHARED CITY SPACE
Although social divisions are prevalent throughout Northern Ireland, they are most evident within Belfast, with high levels of residential segregation resulting in people living “parallel lives” which create diseconomies of division. Many of Belfast’s citizens feel they have access only to limited areas of the city so a key element of a successful plan would be to open access to all parts of the city, both from a physical viewpoint and from the stance of full participation in civic life. *This proposal aims to provide those first tentative steps at creating the potential to change this.
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TRANSFORMING CONTESTED SPACE
Social divisions are often expressed in physical form – e.g. murals, flags, bonfires, peacewalls. The key sites for inter-community conflict within Belfast are the interface areas.
*The scheme will place focus on providing long-term engagement with young people at particular flashpoint areas
*It will aim to encourage and promote social and economic regeneration with an explicit inter-community relationship- focus. *It will be a forum to facilitate dialogue, mediation and inter-community engagement, particularly around issues of division, e.g. parades, flags, derelict sites etc.
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DEVELOPING SHARED CULTURAL SPACE
*The proposal aims to support engagement work that openly challenges perceptions, develops understanding, encourages meaningful dialogue and sustainable relationships within and between communities. *It also aims to provide opportunities for local groups to explore diversity in full collaboration with others, promoting diversity as an opportunity rather than a threat, via various media – e.g. art, culture, music, history, heritage, sport etc.

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STARTING THE PROCESS – THE RIGHT TIME IS NOW

Earlier this year, and after years of cross community work the first Peacewall barrier in one the Troubles’ hotspots was temporarily opened on a trial basis. The barrier, a steel gate, was installed at the junction of the Limestone Road in North Belfast in the late 1980s, following a spate of killings.

While politicians and activists cautioned against expecting a domino effect of peace walls coming down quickly, there was a sense of optimism that progress would continue.

“The way to do it is slowly but surely,” a local councilor urged. Asked if he would like to see more peace walls coming down, he said: “The more the merrier, but provided the residents who live beside them are in agreement.”
It is a major step forward for an area which, until very recently, was blighted by regular sectarian violence.

Crucially, the need for the gate’s removal was recognised right across the community during a lengthy consultation process.

However, to put this action in perspective – this ‘interface’ encompasses one steel gate spanning a minor side road. We must be mindful of the bigger challenges that await in relation to 21km long barriers (in total), buffer zones and security gates.

This optimism however is reflected in the announcement of a $3.5 fund aimed at bringing down the so-called peace walls .
The programme will fund a range of relationship building initiatives within and between interface communities to help them arrive at a point where residents feel it is safe and appropriate for the walls to come down. With the support of Architecture for Humanity and our local partners we aim to approach this fund for initial funding to develop a realistic programme of intervention on the Cupar Way interface.

The proposal, with an emphasis on the spatial dimension of the conflict is therefore aimed at beginning this process of consultation on the Cupar Way peace wall, in order to ensure that the process is realistic and democratic.

Location

CUPAR WAY [PEACE WALL]
BELFAST Belfast BT13
Ireland

Competition Details

  • Name: Open Architecture Challenge: [UN]Restricted Access
  • Host: Architecture for Humanity
  • Type: Public
  • Registration Deadline: May 01 2012
  • Submission Deadline: June 01 2012
  • Entry Fee: $50 USD Professionals , $25 USD Students , $0 USD Dues paying Architecture for Humanity Chapter members , $0 USD Developing Nations
  • Award: More than $5,000 in prizes
  • Status: Concluded

The competition entry ID for this project is 13044.

Project Details

NAME: ALTER YOUR NATIVE BELFAST // ALTERNATIVE BELFAST
PROJECT LEAD: 13044
LOCATION: CUPAR WAY, BELFAST Belfast BT13, Ireland
START DATE: May 30, 2012
CURRENT PHASE: Schematic Design
PROJECT TYPE: Community Center
DESIGN ARCHITECT:

About Our Partners

Sponsorship Needed We're continuing our recruitment of individuals and organizations who are ready to accept the mission of sponsoring the complex yet rewarding task of successfully transforming previously conflicted sites into civic spaces. If you are ready to enlist your financial resources in service of this greater good, please call us at 415.963.3511 or contact us.