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The Belfast Martyrium

Part 2 Project 2013
Jason Stewart
Catherine Howe
Georgina Holden
University of Liverpool Liverpool UK
Seemingly ordinary relics from sectarian cities each bear distinct narratives as extant markers of time, charting the history of a population. This thesis questions how architecture can deal with sectarian relics from divided cities and explores how contentious objects can be collated without diluting their narratives. The Belfast Martyrium promotes investigation of these relics through cultural and educational analysis; it preserves them without creating shrines, which could perpetuate tension. Belfast is synonymous with its continued sectarian history, attracting global political and media attention, exemplified by recent unrest throughout the marching season. The thesis proposal harnesses this reputation and locates Belfast as a global centre of research in a field that the city has decades of experience in.

Belfast lacks public green space and its built fabric is littered with cavities. The Martyrium inhabits a chasm between two sects along the Westlink motorway in West Belfast, sewing together a physical fracture in the urban structure of the city and activating an impossible ‘no mans land’.

Our thesis draws direct inspiration from the Clifton Street Cemetery, considered “a paradigm for the history of the city”, as a concept it allowed us to explore an existing permanent collection of societal markers. The cemetery became our true layout for the master plan whilst the funeral procession became a concept for its movement, from the interment of an item at the collection point on Shankill Road, to its presentation in the main exhibition building, its entombment throughout the preservation archive and its exhumation for research across the site.

Items are concealed within individual Martyria across the site and suspended above the Westlink, creating a sculptural spectacle in constant flux corresponding to exhibitions and new acquisitions. When the Martyrium is closed to the public, the items sit within their boxes below the ground surface, as if entombed.

By challenging the separation of archival storage and display, the entire site becomes a public landscape to visit and traverse on a regular basis. The shared space created provides community members, visiting individuals and academics a method to engage with sectarian relics, detached from their weighted narratives.

Jason Stewart
Catherine Howe
Georgina Holden

Tutor(s)

2013
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