Video: Students help reimagine derelict hotspots in Fountain and Bogside

Students from Queen’s set up an architectural ideas hothouse in the New Gate Arts and Culture Centre last week as part of an ongoing project to try to reimagine the built environment in the Fountain, Bogside and Bishop Street.

The students are working on ‘Street Society’, in collaboration with the Fountain/Bogide ‘Urban Village’ project, which aims to regenerate the wider district to the south and west of the historic city walls.

Dereliction, which has long blighted the Fountain, Meenan Square and parts of Bishop Street, is firmly in the students’ sights, as Aaron Farrell, one of those taking part explained.

“What we’re working on this year is the bonfire site [beside New Gate] that we’re standing on at the moment and a few of the streets that lead round to Wapping Lane.

“We’re looking, historically, at some of the old gates that would have been around the old Fountain area, trying to make it more lively, like it would have been back in the 1960s and 1970s, and even going back to the 1850s when the Tillie and Henderson factory first came here.

“We’re basically trying to liven up the street and make the place look slightly better and give the bonfire site a bit more use.”

Jourdan McKee, another participant, said the intensive one week project, provided the students with clear aims and focus.

“Its quite jam packed in. It’s full on every day. We’ve got a good range of people working. So we’ve got first years and first year masters as well so there’s a good range of skills.”

Anne McCloskey said the practical experience was valuable.

“We’ve been working and learning on the job and working with the community and clients as well. It’s really good, getting their feedback.”

Derek Moore, of the North West Cultural Partnership, which hosted the students, said he was impressed by the ideas and designs that, if someday realised, would really help rid the area of the scourge of dilapidation.

“This is our second year in a row working with ‘Street society’. I think we found last year it was brand new for us and we didn’t really know what to expect but after four or five days they came up with some fabulous ideas,” he said.

“I think people coming into the area with a fresh outlook, with no hang ups or with no preconceived ideas of what’s been here, what is here, and what the problems are, and coming up with ideas that are fresh, brand new, out of their own minds, last years class and this years class, I think they’ve a lot to offer the whole country going forward,” added Mr. Moore.

‘Street Society’ is a unique design, research learning experience for students working in teams and responding creatively to briefs set by a client group from community organisations.

Since its inception, Street Society have built models, developed street furniture designs, designed listening maps, generated proposals for re-use of derelict heritage buildings and created pop-up spaces. Community clients have used this material to support their own aspirations for change and improvement their areas.

Initiated in 2010 by Professor Ruth Morrow, from the School of Natural and Built Environment at Queen’s University, it runs in March each year bringing the skills and energies of architecture students to community-based clients seeking to tackle social and economic challenges.

Since 2015 it has focused its efforts on the Urban Village areas and for the past two years on all five areas across Belfast and Derry.