My PhD was funded through the EU (SEUPB), within a project entitled ‘Planning for Spatial Reconciliation’ and is being undertaken at the School of Planning, Architecture and Structural Engineering at Queen’s University, Belfast.
The working title of my research is ‘Mouthpieces of the Limit: Liminal Spatial Praxes in Divided and Contested Contexts.’
I am interested in the impact that the built environment can have on the negotiation of difference within societies that are in or moving out of conflict. I am also interested in liminality, or practices of locating in-between, particularly in divided and contested contexts where divisive binaries are rife. Nick Vaughan-Williams points out that ‘the notion of maintaining sharp, contiguous borders between anything is impossible and inevitably breaks down.’ (Vaughan-Williams 2012: 1) My research looks at spatial praxitioners who are actively working, in various ways, towards the breaking down of physical, conceptual and social borders in such places.
I am not a determinist – I do not think that architecture alone can ‘fix’ society. But I do believe that the spaces we inhabit have some impact on the way in which we behave, for better or for worse. Therefore the taking of decisions about space is undeniably political and of great importance. Foucault described both the limitations and the possibilities of the contribution that architecture can make when he stated that:
‘Architecture itself cannot solve social problems: I think that it can and does provide positive effects when the liberating intents of the architect coincide with the real practice of people in the exercise of their freedom.’ (Foucault 1997: 36)
This research focuses on the practice of architects and planners in Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine who are acting on such ‘liberating intents’, in all their diverse, contradictory and context-specific ways.
- How is space being produced in divided and contested contexts in ways that transcend the traditional boundaries of knowlege, practice and distinct places?
Foucault, M. (1997) ‘Space, Knowledge and Power’
Vaughan-Williams, N (2012) ‘Border Politics: The Limits of Sovereign Power’