StreetSpace Studio 2022-23- Botanic
Everyday streets are at the core of urban life, they sustain a complex mix of activities, different types of people and histories of generations that walked, lived and played in them. These streets have often been taken for granted and many have been transformed or disappeared as a consequence of planning decisions. Those streets are made by the buildings that flank them and the people that live in them. And those communities feel a sense of belonging to their streets, and value them as part of their everyday life and their meaningful memories.
StreetSpace studio is now in its 5th year, working as a collaborative yearlong project. MArch students will work on the area of Botanic in Belfast to understand the significance and value of its streets and people, and deal with the problems and potentials of vacancy, dereliction and density, especially focusing on future housing and mixed-use potential of the neighbourhood. This year’s chapter builds up on work done since 2020 in the Open Botanic and Open Shaftesbury Projects. Open Botanic was focused on understanding the complexity of movement on Botanic Avenue and perceptions of the public about the street, concluding with a proposal to pedestrianise the avenue. Open Shaftesbury built up on this work to engage more closely with the communities surrounding the area. Now we will investigate the data collected in those projects and engage further with members of the community to provide a plan for potential housing and mixed use to improve the area. We will collaborate with Forward South, the Department for Communities, and Belfast City Council in association with Donegall Pass and Holylands community groups, to highlight the priorities for this area and deal with real possibilities of regeneration and transformation while respecting the existing social and physical fabric of the streets studied.
Public Engagement at QUB, and Department for Communities, we have a series of partners that will enrich this live project. As well as the architecture training that is core to this studio, we will be supported by Dr Federica Banfi and Anna Skoura in ethnographic methods, and by planners Dr Laura Michael, Professor Brendan Murtagh and James Hennessey in principles of mobility and public participation in the area. The studio builds up on years of StreetSpace research projects. This includes the Gentle Densities Project (for DfC Housing Division), that investigates medium density, mixed use and public participation as vehicles to deliver appropriate housing in Belfast; and the Build Back Better Mapping Project (for Participation and the Practice of Rights and Oak Foundation) that is in the process of identifying public land for social housing for vulnerable communities.
Our consultants this year will be Brigit Hausleitner and Aisling Rusk. Hausleitner’s research comprises work on urban diversity and mixed-use cities, working to improve combinations of living and working, with special interest on spaces for urban manufacturing and micro-economic activities. Aisling Rusk is founder and director at Studio Idir, which believes in creating buildings that reflect and respond to family’s or company’s, values; to their uniqueness, life and work.
The students in this studio will spend a significant amount of time investigating Botanic and the communities that lives in it, to be able to formulate informed and professional proposals for programs and good quality buildings in the area. In this studio you will experience becoming an architect in the complex reality of everyday life and the role you can have as a designer in delivering good quality, inclusive, mixed use housing to communities that sorely need it.