The Blackbird of Belfast Lough.
The little bird has whistled from the tip of his bright yellow beak; the blackbird from a bough laden with yellow blossom has tossed a cry over Belfast Lough. 1
This year we will be returning to Belfast for the main project, to research and propose possibilities for An Cheathrú Ghaeltachta. This is an embryonic quarter of Belfast, in the Falls district to the west of the city centre, with the aim of establishing the indigenous Irish culture and language firmly within this part of the city. A gaeltacht is a situation where the vernacular language is Irish.
We will begin the year with a month long project based in Harrow, north west London. The borough is currently the subject of a major expansion and regeneration plan, which over the next 16 years aims to provide 2,500 new homes, new employment and industry and asks ‘what is the character of Harrow?’
The Kodak factory, in Wealdstone, was at one time the biggest employer in the area. Huge swathes of vacant, shingle covered land now make up a third of the 15 hectare site. Inspired by the shingle ‘beaches’, you will be asked to propose a ‘lido’ for Wealdstone, within the Kodak site. This lido is not a swimming pool, but a building on one of the Kodak beaches that embodies the spirit of a lido and provides a community focus that can begin to suggest the course of future development. At its best, a lido is about spectacle, community, inclusivity and pleasure. It appeals to all, and is both an important part of the immediate neighbourhood and of the city.
The development of the Kodak site is a live project and we will meet with Harrow Council, Design for London and Kodak to discuss their different ambitions for the site and to present your ideas.
We will visit Belfast in November, and from a studio space on the Falls Road, will engage with and research the place and community. Through this we will uncover stories, situations and treasures that begin to provide possibilities for projects to happen.
Following on from the Kodak lido we will be proposing a new type of public architecture for the gaeltacht. An Cheathrú Ghaeltachta is not just about language, but about the community and regeneration of the area. We will be working with members of the gaeltacht steering group and local residents, in a series of workshops and presentations. Through these processes and your own research, we will be asking you to develop your own programmatic ideas and to take a position on the development of the gaeltacht, questioning its direction, relationship to surrounding areas, and the type of buildings that should be a part of it.
As with the Kodak project, An Cheathrú Ghaeltachta is a live project, and your work will contribute to the continuing discussions and development of ideas and proposals surrounding its growth. Throughout the year, we will develop and maintain a dialogue with the people we meet in Belfast, and your ideas for the future of An Cheathrú Ghaeltachta will be presented in an exhibition in Belfast at the end of the year, and at the annual Fleadh Feirste lecture in November 2011.
1Anon c.800 translation; David Green and Frank O’Connor. The blackbird is seen as a symbol of hope for Belfast.