Peace by Piece: (Re) imagining Division in Belfast’s Contested Spaces through Memory

Gehan Selim, Andrew Abraham

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This paper investigates processes and actions of diversifying memories of division in Northern Ireland’s political conflict known as the Troubles. Societal division is manifested in its built fabric and territories that have been adopted by predominant discourses of a fragmented society in Belfast; the unionist east and the nationalist west. The aim of the paper is to explore current approaches in planning contested spaces that have changed over time, leading to success in many cases. The argument is that divided cities, like Belfast, feature spatial images and memories of division that range from physical, clear-cut segregation to manifested actions of violence and have become influential representations in the community’s associative memory. While promoting notions of ‘re-imaging’ by current councils demonstrates a total erasure of the Troubles through cleansing its local collective memory, there yet remains an attempt to communicate a different tale of the city’s socio-economic past, to elaborate its supremacy for shaping future lived memories. Yet, planning Belfast’s contested areas is still suffering from a poor understanding of the context and its complexity against overambitious visions. 
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-221
Number of pages25
JournalAthens Journal of Architecture
Issue number3
Early online date02 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


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