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Anarchitecture: Prepared for Peace/Ready for War

Part 2 Project 2008
Lee Mclaughlin
Newcastle University, UK
When conceptualizing the city through correlations of surface, movement, division and violent conflict, it is evident that one cannot ignore the moment of tension prevailing in a city torn between the past and the present. With neither the victorian city fully preserved, nor a surrender to globalist modernity, Belfast has remained in a state of inertia in recent years. However, in a city growing idiosyncratically, this quality will soon yield to new forms as it attempts to transcend over 800 years of violence, conflict and civil unrest. The failure to resolve ethno-sectarian tensions at ground level and within the most marginalised and deprived communities in Belfast is indicative of a continual refusal to tackle the nature of underlying tensions and realities. If these tensions were to be confronted and the city/ site allowed to evolve, what architectural typology should this process involve?

For architecture to absorb and reflect on this it must act as a subscript and present a symbiotic form of architecture that embodies a transformation in scale, time and direction. This design thesis, which calls for a conflict research facility and public confrontation mass aims to challenge the paucity of the current peace process and highlight the difference between the ideal political landscape offered by the Belfast Peace Agreement and the everyday reality of life in a divided society.

The final design proposal aims to find an original architectural expression that maintains a dialogue within the complexity of its dimensions in the post-conflictual city. Through expression, it attempts to translate a space that absorbs and intensifies history, whilst simulteaneously acting as a neutral vessel for progressive narrative, discussion and debate in a city increasingly governed like a highly opportunistic osterich. This unadorned and sober building is defined by its hostile yet delicate permeated skin. It appears as a monolithic mass that competes and compliments religion’s built presence in the uncontested city core of Belfast. In its essence, architecture is used as a tool, not to solve differences, but to promote action in a city where dialogue is seemingly an exhausted model.

Lee Mclaughlin

This project focuses on Belfast as a site of urban conflict and division. The International Centre for Conflict Research, located in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, provides facilities for study, documentation, collection, exhibition, and learning, in what is a rich controversial context.

Lee McLaughlin has produced an austere, stark and sober piece of architecture. The building and its technology encourage people to move through, and critically reflect on the history of conflict and its impact on society. This is a brave and honest response, to what is obviously a hugely complex, and age-old problem.

Dr Martin Beattie
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