Hidden barriers and divisive architecture

Article by David Coyles, Brandon Hamber, and Adrian Grant


Brandon Hamber has just published this article ‘Hidden barriers and divisive architecture: The role of “everyday space” in conflict and peacebuilding in Belfast’ with colleagues David Coyles and Adrian Grant.

The article is open access and available in the Journal of Urban Affairs.

According to its abstract

Whilst “spatiality” and “architecture” have become recognized as important dimensions of urban conflict, contemporary forms of power push our gaze toward symbolic landmarks such as Belfast’s “peace walls.”

This paper uses Belfast as a case study to instead highlight the fundamental role occupied by “everyday” urban space and architecture.

It reveals evidence of an undisclosed body of divisive architecture put in place through a confidential process of security planning between 1977 and 1985 to physically segregate and spatially fragment Catholic and Protestant communities in contested areas of Belfast.

Termed here as hidden barriers, they are formed from “everyday” roads, housing, shops, offices, factories and landscaping, and the ways in which they continue to promote division represents a crucially undervalued aspect of conflict-transformation planning.

The paper examines the complex urban challenges that they pose, arguing for a re-evaluation of the role of everyday architecture and space in conflict and peacebuilding processes.


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