Richard Dougherty takes a look at Queens University Belfast’s end-of-year show
Opposite a hidden walled cemetery, Queens University Belfast’s end-of-year show was located in the upper floors of the University’s sprawling David Keir building. Like the cemetery, the show was detached from easy public engagement though the effort to explore the work was richly rewarded.
Dispersed over three floors, the show unfolds energetically as the focus shifts from first year’s spatial biographies on real ‘makers’ in Belfast’s Holy lands, through to the third year’s convincing tribute to Armagh’s historic traditions and ideals of monastic communities. The Masters course was located on the topmost floor and displayed a clear and mature body of work with the unit structure delivering a depth and variety across the five thematic groups.
The third year’s Boxing Academy and Hospice units stood out for their beautiful contextual drawings and compelling interventions that reflect the students’ deep understanding of the significant cultural and historical context of Armagh.
Presenting a Smithsons-like sensibility of Urban Infrastructure, Studio M:NI showed rigour and resolution in their exploration of Northern Island’s motorways as unifying functions. Proposals ranged from collective farms through to projects engaged with flood defence - all feeding off this redefined landscape.
The ‘Craigavon’ unit with their interrogation of a ‘New Town’ phenomenon built 50 years ago was particularly compelling for its engagement with the social, political and economic parameters. Student proposals included a new light rail network, business hub and a mix of housing schemes working towards densification in this problematic context. Niall Quinn’s hospice for the terminally ill embodied a sensitive and tender approach and presented a poetic and atmospheric scheme while Naomi Sheenhan’s scheme showed ingenuity and resourcefulness in her critique of the current healthcare system by reconfiguring the motorway as an adaptive system using mobile pods.
Richard Dougherty is an associate at Hall McKnight Architects