Belfast’s hidden architectures of division and cohesion

David Coyles*, Clare Mulholland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This paper draws on two recent research projects to provide a perspective on the overlooked role played by ‘everyday’ architecture in post-conflict Belfast. It first reveals the capacity of architecture to latently reinforce and duplicate conflict forces by examining an historic body of hidden barriers put in place between 1977–1985 as part of a confidential programme of government security planning. It illustrates how seemingly nondescript buildings and spaces work in unseen ways to foster continued social division within present-day Belfast. The paper then moves on to provide a contemporary counterpoint by revealing the capacity of architecture to stimulate positive micro-politics between divided groups. It analyses a series of publicly funded community hubs which generate novel architectures that aim to promote social mixing and exchange. It illustrates the opportunities and challenges of these spaces working in hidden ways to stimulate and sustain new forms of cross-community contact. The paper concludes by arguing for a re-evaluation of the role played by architecture, in its widest sense, within wider peacebuilding policy processes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe urban ecologies of divided cities
EditorsAmira Osman, John Nagle, Sabyasachi Tripathi
ISBN (Electronic)9783031273087
ISBN (Print)9783031273070
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2023

Publication series

NameAdvances in Science, Technology & Innovation (ASTI)
ISSN (Print)2522-8714
ISSN (Electronic)2522-8722


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