Knowledge Exchange Seminar Series (KESS)

Hidden barriers and divisive architecture: the case of Belfast

Hidden barriers and divisive architecture: the case of Belfast

Mr David Coyles, Prof Brandon Hamber and Dr Adrian Grant (Ulster) –

The “peace-walls” are particularly symbolic of the role that architecture plays in separating residential communities and a comprehensive scholarship continues to assess their effects. This presentation outlines original findings from a three-year multi-disciplinary academic research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which extends this current understanding of physical and social division. It reveals new evidence of a distinct and important, yet largely unrecognised, body of divisive architecture; an extensive range of ‘hidden barriers’ embedded in various architectural forms across Belfast’s residential communities. The presentation draws on six distinctive case-study communities that have been subjected to the implementation of ‘hidden barriers’ during the comprehensive redevelopment of social-housing during the Troubles: all six communities fall within the top ten percentile of the most deprived electoral wards in Northern Ireland with comprehensive, evidence-based examples of less visible and undervalued forms of social and physical division. The case studies provide a rigorous and reliable evidence base drawn from qualitative fieldwork that includes architectural mapping, photography, community focus groups and in excess of 100 community interviews. This data is underpinned by new and extensive archival research and analysis of NINIS statistical data. The presentation explains how emerging findings from the research reveal complex and multi-layered impacts that these “hidden barriers” have on community relations and community regeneration policy aspirations that are central to the implementation of the Executive’s ‘Together: Building a United Community Strategy’. It concludes by outlining recommendations on how these issues could be addressed within current policy frameworks, presenting the case for the development of novel and bespoke approaches to issues of concern, with a focus on housing, tourist development, and infrastructural investment.

This seminar took place on 20th June 2018

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Policy Briefing
Presentation