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The Redevelopment of Inner City Housing and the Effect on the Urban Fabric: A Case Study on the Markets, Belfast

Part 2 Dissertation 2012
Rachel Delargy
Queen's University Belfast UK
As someone born and raised in Belfast I have always had a great interest in how the city has transformed over recent years. My awareness of its form and structure has developed as my architectural knowledge has grown. I have begun to look at the city with a more critical eye. Gaps in the city’s fabric, left over spaces and, overall, a much looser layout have become apparent to me. Initial map analysis informed by the principles of Urban Morphology led me to discover the ‘fracturing’ of a once fully consolidated urban fabric. This was most noticeable in one district in particular known as the Markets, originally laid out in a grid system a century ago but then changed out of all recognition in the 1970s through housing redevelopment.

The re-ordering of housing in the area was precipitated by political pressures created by the outbreak of the ‘Troubles’ in the 1960s. There were other factors at work. A large proportion of housing stock was in need of repair. An insistent demand for a more efficient road system through the area into the city centre also played an important role in shaping the area. The resultant four-lane thoroughfare would eventually lead to a greater isolation of the Lower Markets from both the Upper Markets and the rest of the city.

The story of the Markets illustrates how a series of urban planning decisions can reduce a once vibrant mixed-use working district to a formless housing enclave. This was not a unique case. Similar reactions to Belfast’s poor housing conditions can be identified in other areas of the city where districts where flattened and communities decanted into low quality fringe housing. However the Markets is particularly striking as the new estate stands where a fully functioning district once stood.

This dissertation seeks to understand the past events and decisions within the Markets so that they may prove useful in guiding present and future housing development in this district and areas of a similar nature.

Rachel Delargy

Agustina Martire
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