Belfast, Recast

Belfast, RecastTuesday 2:00 – 6:00Thursday2:00 – 6:00ARCHITECTURE & URBANISM: A POLITICS OF RECIPROCATIONThe primary function of urbanism is to characterize a given territory in ways that make new – or at least better – modes of architecture and occupation possible. In cities torn by sectarian strife, political division and economic balkanization, urbanism\’s capacity to change perceptions and forge new understandings is put to the test. In these places, urbanism sets the agenda for an architecture of engagement. Belfast, Northern Ireland is perhaps the prime existing example of a divided city in the western hemisphere. Despite its recent peace accords, Belfast is still seen and occupied in a highly coded way that resists the improvements brought by typical genres of \’restorative\’ urbanism and \’signature\’ architecture. To recast Belfast, the studio will bring experimental techniques of representation and design to bear on a two-fold process. We will first make a series of readings – eco-topographic, morphological, economic and cultural – of existing relationships between the city and its port, and subsequently stage a series of distinct architectural and landscape projects within this new delineation of the city. The studio is being sponsored by The Belfast Harbour Commissioners and Titanic Quarter Limited, with the active support and participation of the Belfast City Council. Funding will allow the studio to travel to Ireland and publish a book based on its findings. There is also extensive documentation, including three-dimensional data and research on Belfast and Ireland that will be made available to the studio.BELFAST beyond \’THE TROUBLES\’After years of strife and paramilitary violence between Nationalist, Catholic interests who fought to end British rule over the Ulster region, and Unionist, Protestant interests who fought to maintain allegiance to the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland\’s population is finding a way to peacefully coexist. Over the past decade, Ireland as a whole has seen a resurgence of its fortunes and its place in the global economy, becoming a key site of cultural, economic and even design innovation on the European continent. The resurgence of Dublin has been well chronicled, but the role of Belfast, as the capital of the North, is just now emerging. A new enthusiasm for the city\’s future is now palpable. Members of the younger generations, new immigrants and long term residents eager to leave behind \’\’The Troubles\’\’ are all seeking another Belfast. Many plans and projects are under way. Urbanistically though, the city is still held captive by its two intertwined histories of industrial development and sectarian strife. The years of violence and British attempts to quell discord through stealth modes of urban planning have had their effect. Yet, Belfast\’s physical character was already forged before the partitioning of Northern Ireland in 1921, when the city emerged as a key site of British Industrial production in the late nineteenth century. Where architecture and urban design are concerned, the physical consequences of Belfast\’s rise and precipitous fall as a modern, industrial port city have never been fully reconciled with the spatial implications of the political and socioeconomic division between its Protestant and Catholic communities. Much of Belfast, outside the city\’s immediate center, which was cordoned off during \’the troubles\’, is still claimed by one community or another. Until now, no one has resided in the vast areas built to accommodate Belfast\’s port and industries. As the epicenter of global linen and boatbuilding industries, (the Titanic and its sister ships, the Olympic and the Britannic, were designed and built there) Belfast\’s Portlands were once the economic engine of the Ulster region. Today they represent a unique opportunity to reflect upon and project