Students from QUB SPACE explore North Street as one of the few remaining architecturally and socially diverse public spaces in Belfast City Centre. The Masters of Architecture project, led by urban designer Michael Corr and lecturer in architecture Agustina Martire, analyses North Street within an urban context that is fractured, divided by motorways, car parks, empty buildings, and large retail buildings. Within this seemingly bleak urban landscape, North Street still offers a complex vibrancy and diversity. Current redevelopment plans, however, threaten the mere existence of such streets in Belfast. The project highlights the value of North Street in its complexity and diversity.
The adjacent Smithfield+Union neighbourhood – between present day Castle Court, Millfield/Carrick Hill, Royal Avenue, and the expanding Ulster University Campus – was once an area outside the city walls that developed around the historic routes of North Street and Donegall Street. It is the original home to Smithfield Market and Haymarket, and contains some of the city’s oldest streets and listed Victorian and Art Deco buildings. Over the last forty years however, the area has been both neglected and subject to multiple large-scale redevelopment schemes that have left high levels of derelict or vacant properties, and surface car parks; remaining areas are under threat. In this context, as part of an Ulster University Master of Architecture studio coordinated by Lecturer Saul Golden, students have been documenting the physical fabric and the life of the neighbourhood through drawings, models, photography, and film. They present a snapshot of what exists and what is rapidly disappearing along the North Street artery and surrounding areas, to promote discussions about the neighbourhood’s future and its connections with the wider city.