The workshop: ‘Mapping Castle Street: an interdisciplinary workshop about the character of the street’, was held in PLACE NI on November 17-18, 2016. The workshop, facilitated by PLACE NI and sponsored by Queen’s University Belfast was led by Dr Agustina Martire and aimed to produce a provocative urban study of Castle Street. It was carried out by researchers and students from a diverse set of disciplines. History, geography, planning, sound, sociology and architecture were represented by the group leaders and 15 participants involved. We explored Castle Street throughout two days of intense work spread into 4 groups. The History group was led by Dr James Davis and Anna Skoura. The Sound group by Conor McCafferty and Matilde Meireles. The Aspirations/Planning group by Dr Agustina Martire and Steven Donnelly, and the Perceptions/ethnography group by James Hennessey.
Streets are scenes of conflict. They are contested public spaces where fundamentally different people can meet. Architects, planners, designers and policy makers have designed, managed and controlled the way streets are used, occupied and transited. Academics have raised awareness of the value of streets that are diverse, vibrant and inclusive, while urban policy focuses on the commercial value of city streets, and urban designers in their aesthetic and formal qualities. But what makes a good street? Is it the boundaries and thresholds created by buildings binding it? Is it the use of those buildings? Or is it the street’s identity, history and memory?
We will develop a series of layers of analysis including but not limited to: mapping, drawings, diagrams, photographs, interviews, archive work, soundscapes, interviews, and more. We are not looking for a universal solution to the use, design and management of streets, but a culturally specific array of possibilities that our streets could potentially have. Castle Street is an ideal case study to consider, for it is in the core of the city, it connects very different areas, and above all it is loaded with meaning and potential.
At the end of two days of exploration, a series of maps and images were produced and showed in a short presentation. They challenge the prevailing ideas of the character of Castle Street and invited viewers to understand the street under a different perspective, with the aim of broadening the interpretation of urban streets beyond the common tools of built environment disciplines. Dr Ken Sterrett responded to the presentations with a set of new challenges for the project to be carried forward. The event was attended by a broad set of practitioners, policy makers and students from QUB, RSUA, PLACE, City Council and the general public.