#MyBelfastIdea by Ciarán Fox, Director of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects
Three weeks after the fire which gutted the Bank Buildings owned by Primark the people of Belfast are starting to galvanise in support of the city’s traders and retail core. As a profession, architects immediately recognised not only the devastating damage to a listed building but also crucially the risk to our thriving city.
Today RSUA, as the voice of architecture in Northern Ireland, is launching a public campaign called #MyBelfastIdea to collect your ideas and generate debate about how we could make the Belfast City Centre experience better – we want to tap into the deep and real sense of affection that people have for this city, and their passion to improve it. We are asking for contributions from a wide range of individuals and organisations from right across society – architecture isn’t just for architects, after all – and we want suggestions which will draw people into Belfast for leisure and commerce.
We have been thinking about what role architects can play in animating the centre of Belfast, so we are challenging early career architects to develop ideas and concepts which respond to the fall-out from the fire. We want them to be creative in devising interventions which will attract people into Belfast City Centre in the important trading months ahead. As time is not on our side, we have given them three weeks to bring forward ideas – and these ideas need to be deliverable within six weeks with the best winning a prize kindly sponsored by JP Corry.
This is all about ideas, which are the lifeblood of cities. In other places in Europe, they are willing to dream big and to take risks – think of beaches along the Seine in Paris or diverting a river to create linear parks in Valencia. With vision and leadership there is no reason that Belfast couldn’t develop a grand vision for the 21st century. It doesn’t have to all be grand projects, though, sometimes the best changes are quick and inexpensive. For example, the cordon at Bank Buildings has opened debates around pedestrianisation of our city centre. This moment presents us with an opportunity to radically rethink our approach to the heart of our city and re-engage with good urban design.
Now, this is your chance to share your ideas for a better Belfast. Tell us (and your friends, neighbours, and co-workers) what would improve this city using #MyBelfastIdea and let’s show that even in moments of difficulty that there are always possibilities.
This is a guest slot to give a platform for new writers either as a one off, or a prelude to becoming part of the regular Slugger team.