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Student Shows 2015: University of Ulster

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Fearghal Murray takes a look at University of Ulster’s end-of-year show

As part of York Street Art College, Belfast School of Architecture has always explored diverse methods of analysis and representation.  In the past this ‘collage’ approach could compromise the clarity of the exhibition and distract from the architecture itself.This year’s impressive show was more refined and legible without losing its vibrancy.

Final year of undergrad began with a challenge to affect emotional and sensory responses through architecture resulting in some wonderfully crafted and evocative spaces.  Final projects focus on the coastal village of Glenarm with an analysis of the subtleties of place.  The influence of the previous module was evident through the spatial and material richness of subsequent proposals, many of which employed inventive interpretation of the local industrial constructional pragmatism.

As a result, the theme, ‘Empathy in Architecture: Beyond the Superficial – exploring architecture’s presence in the world’, was developed with maturity not always typical at this level. Jourdan McKee’s Seaweed Farm and Aoife Mulvenna’s Boat Houses were among the most convincing and skilfully drawn.

The MArch course aims to engage with more complex urban issues of Belfast’s distorted cityscape, questioning the nature of regeneration within a city emerging from civil conflict and the consequences of mid-century planning.  This year’s projects tackle prominent vacant parts of the city to present a counter-narrative to market-led ideas of regeneration.  

Jane Redmond proposed re-inhabiting an urban block of derelict historic buildings and surface car parks.  In contrast with the generic placelessness of current retail-led plans for the same area, a patchwork of rooms and spaces was woven into the existing urban grain as a dwelling place richly laden with urban memory for citizens in need of Alzheimer’s care. Also impressive was the discipline and rigour of Marc McGowan’s pencil drawings and physical models, which revealed a beautifully resolved civic structure and public space emerging from one of Belfast’s vast post-industrial wastelands.

Fearghal Murray, MMAS Architects, Belfast


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