Monday, October 31, 2011

Alexandra Park Wall?

Earlier this year I reported on an article I read about the dismantling of a "Peace Wall" in Alexandra Park in North Belfast. Upon visiting the park a few weeks ago I was shocked to find a border still running through the middle of the park. The neighborhood to the north of the park is full of Loyalist relics such as the Union Jack and an Orange hall, while only a short distance away to the south is New Lodge Road which is notoriously Republican.

Although I've highlighted the graffiti along the wall in these images, the park is actually a very nice green space in an are with a fair amount of social housing development. There is a small pond where people were fishing at the time. That said, there were very few other people in the area when I was there.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Damage of Refusing to Forget

Themes of remembering and refusing to forget haunt walls and neighborhoods in all corners of Belfast (north - New Lodge/Crumlin, west - Falls/Shankill, south - Sandy Row, and east - Short Strand/Newtownards). Memorials to those who fought or suffered during the troubles, scenes of oppression, and phrases such as "Lest we Forget" or "_____ Remembers" can be found all over neighborhoods with particularly strong Loyalist or Republican ties. Throughout the troubles these were the places where the paramilitary forces such as UVF/UFF/UDA or the IRA/RealIRA/PIRA/INLA gained a strong contingent of troops which also happen to be areas of primarily working class families, lower education levels, and high unemployment rates. Each group feels strongly that it is their duty to protect their fellow citizens in any struggle (Loyalist) from any group that threatens or demonstrates against British Rule (Republican). 

Remembrance of these events are an integral part of this place moving toward coexistence, but it's the way in which the messages are displayed that I worry will only prolong the fragmentation of the north. Each mural is pitting a group as the aggressor or murderer, while the other is claimed as the victim or the rightful protector from the aggressor. The aggressive rhetoric on the walls of these neighborhoods will undoubtedly be passed on to the children who play near them prolonging the divisive mentality of future generations.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dublin Field Study

Samuel Beckett Bridge over the River Liffey in the Dublin Docklands designed by Santiago Calatrava; architect of the Milwaukee Art Museum and Athens Olympic Campus

Over the past few days I was in Dublin with my classmates and a few professors looking at a few districts in the city center.  The Irish capital developed along the River Liffey as its east-west spine and for the past few decades until the country's financial collapse this development exploded with billions of euros of investment and designs from big name architects. The Dublin Docklands authority was created by the city to buy up underutilized land along the waterfront (which was avoided in the 1980's) and transform the area into a business and commercial district. As you can see from the images below, high design and relative high-rise (8-10 story buildings) have covered the landscape surrounding the river and a few public spaces. Unfortunately, the failure of the economy has left many of the offices and residences that were recently built to remain uninhabited as prices have not followed the decline in the economy.

Daniel Libeskind's new Grand Canal Theater building to the right. Known for his angular forms, other works include the Holocaust Museum in Berlin and the master plan for Ground Zero.

The other area of our study was further west down the river along the south bank in an area known as Temple Bar. This portion of the city center retained much of its character. A master plan created for the area in 1991 preserved any existing structures, designed public spaces in a number of the voids, and introduced a number of well designed housing complexes in the area. Today it is a very popular area to visit and stay for tourists because of its pedestrian friendliness and number of pubs and shops.

Photo by Mr Din. The hostel we stayed at is along the very right edge of this image.

Home of Guinness

I couldn't pass up the chance to post a couple of photos of the Guinness factory and store house. I didn't do the tour, but we did some walking around the campus of buildings. The brick buildings from the brewery's original home in 1759 are beautiful industrial relics and take up a fairly large area of the Dublin city center.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Photo of the Day - "Nice Rear End of City Hall"

I suppose the Mercedes S-Class is a nice accent to the Baroque Revival facade and cupola. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Flatiron Building of Belfast

The Albert clock tower in the background and the black taxi in the foreground

This flatiron-shaped building on an odd corner lot caught my eye as I walked along the east side of the City Centre. Unfortunately, it sits on the far edge of the pedestrianized area of the town center and along a multi-lane street and underground parking exit, which limits activity around it. I think the turret-like end, coned roof, and cream city brick arches above the windows give the building a lot of character.

Less the height and prominent location, it reminds me of the Daniel Burnham's "Flatiron Building" on Fifth Avenue in New York built at the very beginning of the 20th century. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Off to Dublin... Which is under water

From Wednesday to Friday I will be staying in Dublin on a class trip focused on the revitalization efforts of the Temple Bar district over the past two decades.

Unfortunately, we go there at time when the city has been hit with an extreme amount of rainfall which caused major flooding last night. As seen in the following videos, the water level was many feet higher than street level in a number of places including in a shopping mall and a bus.

The next few days are supposed to be beautiful though and water levels have already receded.

Slightly off topic: Libyan Heritage Protection

One of the consequences of war that often gets overlooked is the destruction or looting of antiquities and architectural monuments. A recent article said that serious damage had been avoided during the liberation of Libya, but that the security of this heritage is further under threat now without an authority to oversee their safety. As was seen in similar situations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and of course the Turkish Military occupied territory of Cyprus, looting and selling of priceless pieces of art and antiquities is a widespread problem in states under fluid or temporary political or military rule. I sincerely hope that the loss of more heritage from the birthplace of civilization can be avoided by the proud people of Libya as was done in Egypt during their revolution.

Churches in the occupied territory of Cyprus that are falling into disrepair or have been looted of their religious art to be sold on the black market.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Photo of the Day - "They're Watching..."

BBC Northern Ireland headquarters on Ormeau Avenue. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ormeau Park

Belfast has quite a large number of parks throughout the city, but there are three areas that I use most. The first is the Botanic Gardens which is constantly used by students of the University and others that live in the area. The Botanic Gardens acts as a link between campus and the Lagan River embankment where I can access either of my other favorite parks. If I were to head south along the river I would hit the toe path that meanders through the Lagan Meadows Wildlife area. Alternatively, if I turn north and follow the river toward the harbor I find myself in Ormeau Park seen here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Occupy Belfast

The Occupy Wall Street has spread all over the world, and the middle-class of Belfast refused to be left out of the movement. Camped out across the street from of the Belfast Cathedral in "Writer's Square", this small group of the "99 Percent" were faithfully occupying this small square north of the city centre. I was slightly confused about their motives camped out in front of a religious monument and nowhere near a government or financial building, but perhaps they intend to get some press near the Belfast Telegraph headquarters... On the bright side, they did bring some life into a square that is relatively poorly designed and little used!


Friday, October 21, 2011

Gaddafi's role not limited to Libya

During his 40 year-long rule over Libya, Gaddafi both suppressed a nation and encouraged international terror. The end of this provocative dictators reign over his failed empire is also celebrated in a number of circles who were deeply affected by his role as an international menace. In addition to being connected to terror plots such as the Lockerbie Bombing, he also supplied armament to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which was the infamous paramilitary terror organization which carried out a decades long bombing campaign throughout Ireland and Great Britain.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rihanna Video filmed in Belfast

Just before beginning her tour at the Odyssey complex in Belfast, Rihanna spent a few days in the greater Belfast area filming her new video for "We Found Love". The video takes place at the New Lodge Road apartment blocks as well as in a government officials farm field in Bangor (just east of Belfast). Her arrival in Belfast basically shut areas of the city down during her three days of filming and the day of her concert.

Not sure if she thought through the video this far, but I found it interesting that she would choose such a troubled place to find love in her video about "finding love in a hopeless place". The New Lodge area was a notoriously working class, catholic part of town during the Troubles and the apartment blocks in this video are topped with signs from the infamous hunger strike victims of 1981.

Here she talks about the making of her video while she's in the field in Bangor.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Belfast Cathedral

Also known as St. Anne's Cathedral, Belfast Cathedral is the premier monument of the "Cathedral Quarter" in the northern section of the City Centre. Directly across from "Writer's Square", which is generally unsuccessful as a recently created public space, the proud Romanesque facade of the church represents a later incarnation of the original St. Anne's Cathedral originally built in 1776. The current church was established around 1900 and miraculously survived a Nazi air raid during WWII that cleared the neighboring space next to the University of Ulster building.

Notice the white and black stone lines on the floor. If you follow the black lines, you are destined to find a dead end at every turn (representing sin), while if you chose to follow the righteously white path, you are led, uninterrupted through the nave and around the ambulatory.

One of the most recognizable elements of the building are the massive spire, or spike, that seems to be floating above the crossing of the transept and the nave. To be completely honest, I find this to be a frightening monument that imposes a damning vision rather than one of transcendence, which is usually done in religious structures through a glowing cupola or dome. More simply put, when standing below it I far feel more likely to be zapped by a lightning bolt cast down by Zeus than I am to be lifted to heaven.

The church is a temple of the Church of Ireland, which is an Anglican denomination (better understood as Episcopalian in America). The seat of the Church of Ireland is based in Armagh, which is in the southern part of Northern Ireland.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Alex "Hurricane" Higgins

To continue with a trend of famous Northern Irishmen, here is some footage from the great snooker player Alex Higgins, a.k.a. "The Hurricane".

Of course I'd never heard of him before, but the footage I've watched is quite impressive. During the peak of his playing career in the 1970's it was commonplace to be drinking and smoking around the table during tournaments (as I've seen in a number of other videos) and we can only imagine what happened while he practiced. Unfortunately Hurricane died an early death at the age of 61 after a long battle with throat cancer.

A mural to honor "The People's Champion" in Sandy Row.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cyprus Return Wrap-up

I couldn't come back from this beautiful island without a nice photo of the extended weekend for my viewers. This was taken during sunset at Bellapais within the courtyard of the gothic abbey church.

The conference itself went wonderfully well. My presentation was well received and I also got some great feedback from residents and visitors of the Walled City. I also had the privilege to meet a number of very interesting people who spoke at and attended the conference.

Unfortunately, a four day trip is not enough in a place of such beauty and with great friends... It left me hungry to return again as soon as I am able :-)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Weekend In Cyprus

Flying from one divided island to another over the weekend to give a presentation at a conference in Nicosia, Cyprus. The conference is called "Shared Spaces and their Dissolution: Practices of Coexistence in Cyprus and Elsewhere" and it is hosted by the PRIO Cyprus Centre and the Association for Historic Dialogue and Research. I will be presenting on a proposal I've developed for the moat surrounding the historic walled city of Nicosia. The moat was one of many aspects of unifying architectural heritage that I discovered in Nicosia, but is a landscape that has been fragmented over time and remains underutilized to this day. The title of my presentation is "Encircling the 'Last Divided Capital in Europe': Revitalizing the Moat as a Unifying Architectural Element" and I present sometime between 2 and 4 on Saturday afternoon for those of you in Cyprus.

I am very eager to hear a number of other speakers at the conference including two that share my time slot, which is generally titled "On the futures of coexistence: Living together after conflict". Jon Calame and Anna Grichting have both been studying urban issues in Cyprus for a number of years and were great resources and perspectives that helped to shape my perspective on the situation.

Photo of the Day - "Outdoor Tubing"

Metal tubing found outside a campus building. I thought it created a nice composition with the red bricks, decorative fasteners, and gothic limestone corbel.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Samson & Goliath

The biblical names Samson and Goliath were given to two of the largest monuments of Belfast. The Harland & Wolf built ship cranes were completed around 1970 in a bright yellow color proudly displaying the letters of the ship building company that commissioned them in the Belfast Harbor. Deceivingly, they have nothing to do with the early shipbuilding history of the city, and in fact were only constructed near the end of Belfast's reign over the industry. As I've mentioned in earlier posts, Belfast was the premier site of shipbuilding from the late 19th century until the late 20th century. The infamous Titanic as well as the Britannic and Olympic ships were all created for White Star Line in Belfast's Harbor. It is commonly known that the ships were fine when they left this harbor... A number of shirts sport the saying "RMS Titanic: Built by Irishmen, sunk by Englishmen".

Seen here above Albert Bridge
Seen here above the Lagan River while walking along the toe path
Seen here from across the harbor at Clarendon Docks
Although rarely used today, the cranes have been deemed a protected monument and for good reason. The 100 meter tall crane structures that remain from the ship building days of the city represent an important piece of Belfast's heritage while also dominating the skyline with their industrial form and bright yellow color. The cranes can be seen from many places throughout the city.

I understand that they are not entirely decommissioned and are somtimes used today for construction of other large pieces of machinery. One example I recently was mentioned to me was wind turbines.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Crimestopper Land Rovers

If these things can't stop crime I don't know what could!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Group Photo from Link Weekend

A group photo finally surfaced that includes all of the Ambassadorial Scholars who attended the Link Event in Stafford, England last weekend.

Photo Credit: LiechsWonder Photography, 2011

Union Theological College

Another major monument of the Queen's Quarter is the Union Theological College Building. It was originally established as Assembly's College in 1853 and has since become an institute of theology with the ability to hand out a range of related degrees from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. 

This building was also designed by Charles Lanyon and is located only a few hundred meters east of the Lanyon Building of Queen's University. Among other posts, Lanyon became the Mayor of Belfast in 1862 and a conservative MP in Westminster from 1865-1868. He was also highly active on the Belfast Town Council during these years of his life.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Lanyon Building

The main feature of Queen's University is the Lanyon Building, which was the original Queen's College building when the institution was founded in 1849. For over 150 years, this building has been one of the most important monuments in Belfast as the non-denominational higher education center of Ireland. The building was designed by the important architect of the time Charles Lanyon (who also designed the Palm House) and is named in his honor. It remains a major stop on tours of the city and is the main monument of the "Queen's Quarter" of the city.

The McClay Library, which was only finished in the past few years, can be seen in the Background. I absolutely love the design of the library because it has a substantial amount of glazing and fits in neatly to the areas architectural character. Without competing with the surrounding building, it's lantern-like central is incredibly attractive.

Over the years the building has gone through a number of additions which has enclosed a green quadrangle  surrounded by gothic revival architectural elements. Admittedly the interior is less impressive than the exterior, which I understand to be due to budget constraints toward the end of the buildings original construction.