ARCH 691A: Heritage Conservation

Instructor: Trudi Sandmeier

A Scarred City: Memorialization and the Future of Belfast’s Peace Lines

Walls have long accompanied sectarian violence as a tool of division. Physical scars that communicate the very real divides entrenched in the social fabric of these sites. Bisecting neighborhoods, they reshape the urban fabric fundamentally altering the way inhabitants interact with the city around them. Even long after conflict and the accompanying violence has ended these walls serve as authoritarian reminders of traumatic events and as such pose a unique challenge in terms of managing their legacy. For some their very existence is offensive and yet to others they have become a testament to the progress made in the years following conflict and an undeniable characteristic of their evolving city.

In Belfast, North Ireland, the peace lines erected between Unionist and Republican neighborhoods are currently undergoing a reckoning of their history and future. This thesis seeks to construct an understanding of what the peace lines represent to different parties in Belfast and begin to lay the groundwork for what an effective form of preservation might look like. In pursuit of this goal, the history of Belfast’s walls will be reviewed alongside a survey of the current proposals for their future. A selection of global case study sites, each mirroring distinct aspects of Belfast’s peace lines, will also be interrogated to inform best practices.

Through the legacy of Belfast’s peace lines, this thesis aims to glean important lessons on how memorialization can be approached at sites of sensitive history and add to the ever evolving field of their preservation.