Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A New Editorial on Architects for Peace Website: Yellow Urban Alternatives by Ashraf M. Salama

Yellow Urban Alternatives for a Green and Orange Context--Belfast, Northern Ireland,
Ashraf M. Salama, 2009
Architects f.or Peace Editorials,

September 2009, arch-peace, Australia

Belfast, the home of the Titanic, is a city evolving out of a history of conflict and distress. It is witnessing continuous civil and urban transformations; a transition from a troubled urban entity to a lively vibrant city. When I went to the city about 7 years ago for a short visit, the city was starting to get out of its sleepy, scary, and dark image—from what I felt and was told. Since March 2008 however, I was attracted by Belfast’s new image as a tourist destination with historic depth, unparalleled in many cities. I was also ensnared by the idea that a city I have seen a few years ago has changed beyond recognition and keeps changing for the better.

The Urban Reality of Belfast
Despite the fact that Northern Ireland’s peace process began in the mid 1990’s, the city is still essentially divided between the two dominant communities, Catholic and Protestant. While the east and south of the city are diverse enough, these single-identity communities continue to exist in many parts of the north and west. They are partially separated by ‘peace walls’. Records indicate that the number of these walls has increased since the beginning of the peace process. At the last count there were 41walls or similar such constructions. Here I relate to my earlier editorial of February 2008(1) and insert Robert Frost’s famous Poem: Mending Wall. Frost reminds us of offensive building acts when he says: Before I built a wall I'd ask to know... What I was walling in or walling out... And to whom I was like to give offence. Introducing diversity is thus a critical challenge to Belfast’s urban designers and architects, which keeps posing itself on any urban discourse about the city’s future.

Looking at the urban reality of Belfast, one can argue that the city still suffers the impact of thirty years of civil conflict. Such an impact continues to be felt as much ...............

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