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Internationale Bauausstellung Belfast

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[Forum for Alternative Belfast] ‘Does Belfast need a far-sighted urban renewal project like West Berlin’s Internationale Bauausstellung?’

Mark Hackett and Declan Hill, directors of Forum for Alternative Belfast (FAB), arrived in Berlin with a question: ‘Braucht Belfast eine Internationale Bauausstellung?’ - ‘Does Belfast need an international building exhibition?’ The Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) was a far-sighted urban renewal project carried out in West Berlin between 1979 and 1987. It consisted of Neubau (new buildings), led by Josef Paul Kleihues, and Altbau (alterations of existing blocks), led by Hardt-Waltherr Hämer.

IBA was realised over the course of a decade, often through ambitious international competitions. FAB hopes that lessons learned from the process and delivery of IBA 1987 can be applied to the re-stitching of Belfast. The Missing City Map published by FAB in 2010 will become the basis for the international competition that FAB plans to complete by 2018.

Where did your idea come from?

In 2010 Forum for Alternative Belfast published the Missing City map, which very starkly illustrated the need for a strategy to re-stitch the centre of Belfast to its inner- city neighbourhoods. Having lived in Germany in the 1990s, we were familiar not only with Berlin’s Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA), which ran from 1979 to 1987, but also with the longer tradition of building exhibitions in Germany, which has spanned much of the 20th century.

Most surprising thing you found out?

Many of the people we interviewed in Berlin were closely involved in IBA 1987, while others are involved in plans for a future IBA in 2020. When we asked them what they thought about our attempts to apply the spirit of IBA to Belfast, they responded with enthusiasm. What we did learn, which was not nearly so evident in our previous Berlin experiences, was the extent to which gentrification is an issue today. The realisation reminded us of the need to carefully build safeguards into our proposal for Belfast.

Most challenging part of your trip?

For the most part, the people we interviewed were comfortable with spoken English, but on a few occasions we unfortunately subjected our generous hosts to our rusty German. We can only apologise!

How do you plan to take this forward?

The Internationale Bauausstellung Belfast will be launched in Belfast City Hall in August 2012, at the end of the fourth summer school hosted by Forum for Alternative Belfast. The launch will give the project a local ownership. The international aspect of the project will be announced at the opening of the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale. The selection of designers and sites in Belfast takes place during 2013, with five years to complete the projects by 2018.

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