‘Translating Housing: Berlin-Belfast’ explores the similarities between both cities and the sharply contrasting ways that innovation in housing developments has helped create and maintain inclusive, sustainable and civil urban society.
One of the conclusions of the report is that ‘the continuation of current housing typologies and levels of design quality in Belfast may be further building segregation into the urban environment to a degree that may prove irreversible.’
Developed by University of Ulster Belfast School of Architecture, the research was unveiled at the Forum for Alternative Belfast Summer School whose co-director Declan Hill said “There are many lessons Belfast can learn from the provision of housing in Berlin.”
Lead author, Dougal Sheridan from the University of Ulster explains:
“Although Belfast has experienced significant regeneration in recent years, the city remains largely underdeveloped and underutilised for residential use. The majority of housing stock in Belfast and Berlin was built in parallel periods of rapid growth, but the latter has better used housing to build and sustain vibrant urban environments and promote diverse, but cohesive social society. The challenge here is to make housing a driver in urban regeneration and ensure that city living delivers a living city.
“The German housing models exemplify the evolution of contemporary urban living in response to societal and financial changes. Despite a greater density of people in the areas surveyed, the percentage of green space in Berlin is more than twice that of Belfast and the percentage of surfaces dedicated to vehicles is five times less. This contradicts with the popular association between high-density and urban ‘concrete jungles’ and as we observe locally, it can be lower densities that actually result in a concrete and tarmac desert.”
A mix of housing practitioners collaborated with the research team including Dr Jennie Donald, Deputy Chief Executive from Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations, who said:
“This project is interesting because it evolved very organically, from a study trip, to a desire to make use of the learning from that trip and finally to a major research project scoping out potential options on actual sites. The housing models developed by students from the University of Ulster’s School of Architecture integrate some of the best of what we saw in Berlin; higher density living, mixed use development, green space in the city, flexible design and communal living. Although Belfast has experienced significant regeneration in recent years, the city remains largely underdeveloped and underutilised for residential use. There are many lessons we could learn from Berlin, particularly in relation to housing, and if we think creatively and look to new housing models, there is real scope to drive forward regeneration and ensure that city living delivers a living city.
The research supported by the Department for Social Development, NI Housing Executive, Strategic Investment Board, NI Federation of Housing Associations, Smartmove NI and the Forum for Alternative Belfast.
The report can be read in full here.
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