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					Question & Answers
Well, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for being so patient, I know that some of you
will have to leave but we do have a question and answer session and I'm going to ask Lars and
Martha if they will join me at the top table. During this question and answer session there will be
a roving mike available and if you would wait until the mike arrives before asking your question,
when you get the mike, if you would also give your name and then your question, that would be of
great help, so thank you very much. I'm sorry that we've run over time so we did plan to have
everything finished by half past seven but…

But it's our fault.

We did make a late start, in our defence, we did make a late start, but if you could address your
questions and we can try and get the question time over within ten or fifteen minutes. Question
here.

Q. Billy Dickson, Blackstaff Community Development Association. I belong to one of the inner city
communities which is obviously under threat. I'll try and frame as a question my thoughts. I've
been very much involved in trying to save the community with many others in Belfast, what has
happened, the development in the city has driven a lot of the people of Belfast out and I think the
important thing is more to get the people in Belfast to stay in Belfast and the pattern that has
been developing has not really considered the people of Belfast. Just to give one example, the
first slide we seen tonight, Shaftesbury Square, to the right of that part of Sandy Row, terraced
housing has been replaced by car parks and luxury flats, this has alienated the local people, there
is no real thought, and even within the people themselves there's not a great deal of thought
because people have become completely disillusioned, the patterns, and I could obviously go on
and on, but for sake of time, the patterns that has developed has not encouraged people to stay in
Belfast and we have to do that first, I think the authorities have failed, and if that pattern and
patterns continue on there is no future and it's got to be addressed now and dealt with now.

Bill, is that a question to Lars?

I think that the city and its people should really start thinking about how, what they need to do to
invite themselves and the people here back into the city, if you constantly do a lot of different
things, a counteraction to bring in people because the environment is not good or because you pull
down terraced housing where there is people or whatever it is, I don't know all those details locally
of course, but I think one should have a firm strategy where someone comes up and really starts
moving in one direction and brings in new quality and in that way also invites people to move in
again. I know you've had also a lot of special trouble here in the area, all these different problems
already, but I also understand that one thing, the city centre and also some of the new districts
that develop are sort of neutral to the old trouble lines, and I think that's a special issue here in
Belfast. On the other hand I do think that is not really the way to bring progress, you need to
have, to come up with a firm strategy and go in a direction where it can bring quality back into the
place and then also commitment and pleasure, I think, that Martha was talking about, something
enjoyable, that everybody would like, and not just enjoyable for somebody in some district, you
need to do something which is enjoyable for all.

Martha?

Well, the only recommendation I could give, and I don't know Belfast well enough, is that if you
don't have anybody at a high level who is really an advocate for design, who is sensitive to the
issues of what makes a city attractive, it would be useful if you did because the cities that really
hold that up as part of the approval process that in fact you have to achieve a certain standard of
design are able to do things more carefully, but if you don't have anybody in power who actually
cares about that and is a good advocate and articulate about it, it's going to be very tough to hold
sway against just financial bottom line thinking that creates those kind of decisions.

Q. Hi, my name is Cathal I'm a student of landscape architecture and I'm just curious if any of you
are familiar with, I know Martha's working in the Dock in Dublin, but it's Lars is familiar with the
development that's happening along the canal, or along the river in Dublin and I don't know, do
you have an opinion on this development or have you seen it?

Was it a development in Dublin you talk about?
Yeah, I mean, they seem to be taking the opposite way to what you advocate and what Martha
advocates, so I'm just curious are you familiar with this, even where Martha is doing her, Martha is
doing a project down there and the area around that, despite her project?

No, I haven't seen the project, so I don't think I have any detailed information on it, no.

Martha, have you a comment you'd like to make?

Yeah, no, I actually think that's a very good comment, I think it does lack a certain textures,
they're all kind of big buildings and they're a kind of, I think the mistake, the mistake about the
planning there is that it's kind of a zone kind of thinking, you know, where there is a zone for
offices, a zone for cultural buildings, and I think that when you actually have different uses in the
mix it tends to kind of then break things down, but yeah, I think that that's, I think you're right, I
think it lacks a certain kind of cut to the grain.


Q. Hello, my name is Ruth Orr and I'm at the University of Ulster, I'm an architect, and first of all
I'd like to say that the series has been wonderful, but this evening has been spectacularly good
and I've really enjoyed lots of the comments, some of them I disagree with, but some of them are
really intense, and I'm interested in the inverse kind of diagram you have of people, space and
then finally we might just eventually get to some buildings, so I'm interested in that process at
work, and you, both of you clearly display really good kind of observational skills and intuitive
skills to how people are and space to a certain extent, I would say that Martha shows that quite a
bit as well. But have you experiences of working in a participatory way and how has that worked
out?

Martha, do you want to answer?

Yeah, a lot of our work is participatory, absolutely, but it's a process that has to be orchestrated
very carefully. It's very, I mean, how you actually engage the public and how that is organised is
crucial because, you know, as I said, everybody has their own agenda, everybody believes that the
public space belongs to them and it does, so you have to really officiate between kind of what
people like, their individual tastes, but what's interesting is most people are horribly inarticulate
about saying what it is that they want, so we find that in order to get real reactions actually from
anybody you have to actually propose something physical and that is really what gets the ball
rolling in terms of getting the reaction. But you have to really kind of decide when the comments
are appropriate and when they're not appropriate, in other words, there's no way of having a
group designing so that they're deciding what the form is or what the specifics of the form is and
what the, you know, that can't be done, so I have to say that designing is a fairly singular,
designing public art is a singular activity, it can be well informed by public input, it can be shaped
by public input, but in fact somebody clearly has to hold the pencil, but hopefully if somebody who
is listening, you have somebody, you know, you have a group of people who are set up to officiate
behind that, but the artist has to be somebody who is seen as a specialist, they have very special
specific skills to bring to a table and once you actually allow them to do their thing, you end up
with a horrible hotchpotch. So it really depends on kind of how clear you are at defining what the
rules of engagement are, but I feel that your design is, my, our designs are much better because
of the public input we get because we don't know most things about where we're working.

If I could make a comment on it I would say, I see it like at two levels, some of the things we do
as part of a more pedagogical, you want to make a strategy, you want to go in the one direction,
you can get information about what are the criteria, the ideas that you have to work on. At the
other end you need new ideas, I mean, you cannot generate anything out of just an analysis or
the goodwill, but you need to inform, to open the minds, that you can move in a direction, and the
other end of that, you need original ideas that start being the ones you can start talking about and
say, well, you like this part of it or that part of it or "this is a fantastic idea, but we…" and so forth,
then you're into, engaged in the process of doing it the other end. So I think there's two sides of
it and I think that covers it in my case.

I mean, I would say really quickly that we have been very successful, I think, at being able to do
this, but what we typically do is we try to assess different possible directions and come up with
maybe three or five initial starts down different avenues of exploration and before we get too far
into it we make a presentation and we see what happens, what people respond to, what they hate,
what they like, and then out of the pieces, the shambles of that first process, we start to kind of
pull it together, but, you know, we're able to get feedback very quickly if we're not really married
to any one particular approach until we find out really what we're doing.

I think we have time for one more question.

Q. Can public spaces become drivers of social change or do they only have to reflect existing
attitudes? Imagine perhaps people on either side of the bank in that river in Derry to want to
interact with those living on the other side, but you have a vision of a shared future and you start
building those bridges. So putting people first is always putting what they want now first or what
are ideas of the future for the city, please?

Oh that's a darn good question and, boy, I think that one has to speak one's heart, I think one, as
a professional, one has to put your hat in the ring in terms of what you think is best for the world,
I think you just can't be a cipher which, you know, kind of you translate the wants and needs of
everybody else around you and you stay mute. On the issue of Derry, I mean, I think it's very
interesting, my guess is that most people don't want to be brought back together again, but it, I
mean, I travel around the world, I see a lot of things, I do understand people to a certain extent,
and if Derry is going to really engage in the future and if Derry's citizens want their children to
stay there and if they want those children to have a better life there's no way that they can stay
separated because there's no way of competing against other cities that have come together and
in a world that has come together, so to just say, "well, OK, they don't want to come together and
therefore they won't" would be, it would be a terrible lack of leadership and I think sometimes
leadership, it can cost you votes, can make people angry with you, but without people trying to
press forward we would all probably be staying, have stayed in the same place, I think by and
large people don't like change, but I do think that the idea of staying, you know, war time zone
that has cost so many people so many things, is not necessarily everybody's point of view, and a
lot of people, including the people who brought us to take a look at it, who want to move things
forward, so you're not going to be able to please all the public ever and you have to kind of decide
what you can do to make things better and hopefully people will at least trust your motives, but I
think to say that, "well, OK, maybe even if most people wanted to stay the same, you still may
disagree with that point of view", so, you know, you don't have to draw lines in the sand, I mean,
there's another skill, well, kind of doing what people want to do, I mean, you know, you want to
create spaces so that people get to kind of do the things that people in general like to do, but at
some point you have to bring your own value system into it as well, otherwise, you know, you're
not much of a consultant, I would say, I don't know. Jan, you must have a, I mean Lars, you
must have a better take on that question, but…

Well, not really it's a tall one.

Could I actually say that's a very interesting and philosophical question raised. I think we in
Northern Ireland know all about the past, unfortunately too many of us live in the past, but we're
all living in the present and I think to learn to live in the present, to learn from the past, but look
forward to the future and make the decisions that we think our society needs for its future, you
can only look and assimilate that information by what we have learnt from the past, put behind us
the worst things and experiences that we've had, and that goes for all the things that surround us,
our architecture, our culture, our history, our identity, we need to put that into the past, live in the
present and go forward into the future together.



Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank our two speakers tonight for the contribution that they
gave. There's one statement that came through very strongly to me and it was a combination of
what Lars said and what Martha said, and I've put the two things together, the power of an artistic
people-driven vision is what the city should be about and what we as designers should be thinking
about as we design our cities. We've been discussing these evening how we as clients, as
developers, as planners, as architects and simply as citizens who are interested in the
development of our city, how we should address the problem of urban design, it's all about making
place for people, and I'm reminded of the Japanese calligrapher who as he dipped his brush in the
ink was thinking just as much about the white space that he leaves behind as the letter he's going
to perform. We need as architects to think about the buildings we build in association with the
landscape architects who come along and design the spaces outside of buildings and about the
people and the purpose for which we're designing, shouldn't be designing for ourselves, we should
be designing for the people of our city and for the benefit of all who will inhabit that city. On
behalf of you all I would like to thank Martha and Lars for their considerable contribution to this
lecture tonight and I would ask you to please in a well honoured way show your appreciation to
Martha and Lars. Finally before you leave, there are copies of tonight's presentation for those, of
this event and of the previous events, and you will find that on the State of the City website at
www.belfastcitycouncil.gov.uk so if you're interested in anything that has gone before and what
has happened tonight, you will get that there. And also I would like to, on behalf of the City
Council, to invite you to the Third Annual State of the Conference, or sorry, State of the City
Conference which is due to take place in the Waterfront Hall on 9th May, you're all very welcome
to come and attend for that.
But thank you all for attending.

				
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