Failed Architecture walked around in Belfast and took first impressions of the city’s vacancy and the physical manifestations of the ‘troubles’.
Last week we visited Belfast to talk at the conference Vacant to Vibrant organised by PLACE NI. With two days to experience the city, it remains difficult to grasp for an outsider. The city suffers from several issues, including vacancy; braindrain; heavy traffic (which generates noise, congestion, unpleasant public spaces and barriers between areas); a lack of (affordable) housing in the centre even though there is a lot of empty property that could potentially be converted; and of course the tensions between unionists and loyalists, referred to as ‘the troubles’.
The latter has a severe impact on all the other problems and challenges the city is facing. These tensions overshadow all decision making and lock developments. All political layers represent both sides, making it difficult to carry out strategic and integrated plans because many discussions strand in symbolism and tit-for-tat compromises. Below we share our initial experiences of the vacancy problem and the segregated strongholds of unionist and loyalist communities.