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Fracturing the Urban: symbolic visual representations of underlying societal themes in Belfast

Brolly, Ruth and Montgomery, Ian (2017) Fracturing the Urban: symbolic visual representations of underlying societal themes in Belfast. International Journal of Architecture and Urban Studies, 2 (2). pp. 60-82. [Journal article]

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URL: http://www.dakam.org/ijaus

Abstract

Belfast, Northern Ireland is a city permeated by structural divisions, echoing underlying and deeply rooted societal divisions, which no amount of architectural intervention, even Tabula Rasa, can completely eradicate. In a city where, from the late 1960s, civil unrest prescribed a solution of walls, these once temporary structures are now permanent, having increased in size and number since the signing of the Belfast Agreement of 1998. The duality of the walls ensures that on one side communities are isolated in social housing developments where the British Army historically approved planning measures dictated by security issues. On the other, a culturally neutral postmodern city centre, re-imagined as a global tourist destination, a free and inviting environment of consumption. This city’s built environment is further fractured by major roads initiatives. Without sufficient, organized or effective opposition, such as was seen in Manhattan, Belfast’s motorway planning has ensured destruction and redistribution of architecture, carving the city into ill-divided socio-economic portions. On the city’s arterial routes cultural identities are bound up in built environments divested with meaning through signs and symbols, where collective memory, hegemonies, group ideologies, history and myth ensure a narrative of continuity despite changes to the landscape. Even with a ‘genius loci’ constantly under threat the socially produced symbolic landscape of the city’s arterial routes remains imbued with meaning through tangible and visible expressions of culture. This paper undertakes an analysis of the built environment and signage of these arterial routes, supported by a photographic archive, to demonstrate how such visual inquiry can prove a reliable barometer of socio-economic and societal undercurrents, mirroring census findings, in these long-established urban places.

Item Type:Journal article
Keywords:Belfast, arterial routes, interfaces, peace walls, Troubles, signage, semiotics, built environment, urban, city, architecture, lettering, typography, graffiti, murals, tags, socio-economics, place, hegemony, defensible space, transport, culture
Faculties and Schools:Faculty of Art, Design and the Built Environment > Belfast School of Art
Faculty of Art, Design and the Built Environment
Research Institutes and Groups:Art and Design Research Institute > Art and Context
Art and Design Research Institute > Creative Ecologies
Art and Design Research Institute
ID Code:37388
Deposited By: Dr Ruth Brolly
Deposited On:03 May 2017 14:33
Last Modified:07 Nov 2017 18:18

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