We feel so pleased and honoured to have been chosen as the successful architects for the City of the Future competition. True to say to say that we put a lot of passion and thinking into our final competition submission. From the very outset we have felt very driven by this powerful community-led design brief to change the future of the former Mackie’s site. It has been so inspiring to see the numerous videos and comments of local people asking, ‘why can’t we build new housing here?’.
So today I will be in Belfast for the launch of the next stage of the project and am looking forward to meeting everyone. From the amazing staff of PPR, who have led on this whole initiative, through to the people themselves who need new homes.
The Mackie’s site seems like such a good place for housing development. Currently fenced off, and essentially a large area of unused scrubland, it looks full of promise. But how much development can we achieve here and how quickly? As an architect involved in social housing projects here in London for many years, I know how hard it sometimes is to get things up and running.
What I do know is that every stakeholder here at the Mackie’s site needs to be fully involved in the process of creating a development project, and right from the start. This is from the various landowners, through to Belfast City Council, through to existing local residents, with local councillors, and of course with those in such desperate need of somewhere to live. We need to engage and then collaborate. We need ambition and but also realism. We need to be practical, but also brave.
I have so many questions to ask and a lot to learn. But perhaps the first one is very basic indeed: what should the name of this project be as we take it forwards from here?
Finally, Mackies is a wonderful site characterised by an outstanding and unusual urban topography. We agree that it is an ideal location for a major piece of city regeneration and renewal that could have a huge impact on the city of Belfast for the very long term.