Take Back the City Design Competition

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Take Back the City Design Competition There’s no such thing as impossible. Today the Take Back the City coalition is launching an international competition for architects, planners and urban design consultants to submit a strategic urban design for a sustainable neighbourhood on the largest publicly owned site in Belfast, with the potential for around 950 homes at gentle density. Take Back the City was formed in 2021 to advance the case for building homes on publicly owned land in Belfast as a way of tackling the growing social housing waiting list. The coalition is made up of families in housing need supported by experts in housing development, technology, communications, permaculture, housing policy, planning, human rights and equality. Watch the campaigning families in action here. We have trail-blazed a participative process to develop a vision for a better Belfast. We have been campaigning for years to make it happen at Mackies, a 25 acre site in the area of highest social housing need in the city. We now want to transform our vision into a master plan for submission to Belfast City Council, thanks to generous funding from the Oak Foundation. This competition is part of that wider process. The competition is open to local and international architects to develop a strategic urban design for the Mackies site. All entries will be showcased for the community on our interactive map at https://TakeBackTheCity.ie and entrants will be invited to contribute initial ideas and concepts to our ‘City of the Future’ event on August 10th and 11th as part of Feile an Phobail. We know that designs won’t be complete at this stage, and it won’t affect an entrant’s chances of winning if they can’t come or contribute. We also know that not everyone will be able to make the journey to Belfast. However, we’d love it if entrants would be willing to do any of the following: · · ·

Let us profile your practice, by displaying some of your previous work Show a video where you talk through some of your ideas for Mackie’s and give us some initial concepts If possible, come along in person and outline your ideas for your entry with participants

Judging will take place after the closing date of 30th September 2022 and the winner will be announced in October 2022.


The winning entry will receive a prize of £10,000 GBP as well as having the opportunity to take their design forward to masterplan stage. This project is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, a society emerging from conflict and in transition. Mackies is situated at an ‘interface.’ Divisions and walls have separated communities in Belfast for decades. However, people’s attitudes to peace walls are changing,1 and people who have regular contact with the community on the other side of the wall are likely to see their removal as beneficial.2 We are therefore particularly interested in entries which articulate ideas around the future participation of families in housing need in their design and which commit to the principles of equality and human rights as codified in the Good Friday Agreement, the cornerstone of the Northern Ireland peace process. While the focus of this competition and campaign is on a particular site in Belfast, the concepts and innovations which emerge from it should be applicable all across Northern Ireland and in other cities and societies emerging from conflict.

Competition Brief

Over the last three years, Build Homes Now and latterly Take Back the City have been working alongside families in housing need to develop a set of 6 principles for developing housing at Mackies. These are set out in more detail at the end of the brief. We invite entrants to submit concepts for a strategic urban design for the Mackies site, based on our 6 principles. All entries should articulate how they will bring these principles to life, as well as presenting a compelling, visually appealing and optimistic depiction of a flourishing community. All entries should include: · · · · ·

A high level plan of the site demonstrating how the different areas could be used (Macro-level view); A visualisation of the design concept for a street in the proposed development (Micro-level view); A visualisation of the design concept for a typical dwelling in the proposed development; A storyboard illustrating how the brief meets the principles set out below at the following different stages of development: Design, Build and Live; and A contribution, in whatever form entrants prefer, as to what a day in the life of a typical resident living on the new Mackies neighbourhood might be like.

Submissions can include novel or innovative creative methods, including short films, technical drawings, or other formats which should be shareable on various online platforms and for use in public events and exhibitions. Mindful of the need to engage communities in these processes, Take Back the City will also be opening a separate competition to community youth groups to imagine their perfect neighbourhood. Ipsos Mori, June 2020, Public Attitudes to Peace Walls: 2019 Findings, available here Dixon et al, 2020, ‘When the walls come tumbling down: The role of intergroup proximity, threat, and contact in shaping attitudes towards the removal of Northern Ireland’s peace walls’ in British Journal of Social Psychology (2020), 59, 922–944 1 2


How do I enter?

The competition is open to both individual and consortium bids. Applicants should consider their availability to develop a more detailed masterplan between October 2022 and March 2023 should they be successful. The prize money will be paid in full after the announcement of the winner. Applicants wishing to participate in the competition should complete the application form below and send this to Avril Dennison, Assistant Director: Operations, Participation and the Practice of Rights on avril@pprproject.org. Upon receipt of this form, PPR will create an open access folder for entrants to upload all relevant documents. For any enquiries on the competition please contact Avril Dennison, Assistant Director: Operations, Participation and the Practice of Rights at avril@pprproject.org. The competition will close at 5pm GMT on Friday 30th September 2022. Late entries will not be accepted.

Judging and Prizes

The Competition entries will be judged by a panel which will include: · · · · · · · · ·

Families in housing need from the community around Mackies Hugh Ellis, Director of Policy at the Town and Country Planning Association, UK Martin Dunn, Dunn Development, New York City, USA Marissa McMahon, Build Homes Now Organiser and TBTC Coalition Co-ordinator, NI Pauline O’Flynn, GROW, NI Agustina Martire, Queens University Belfast, NI Rory Hearne, University of Maynooth, Ireland Dessie Donnelly and Ruairí McCann, Rabble Tech Co-operative, NI David Worthington, Pragma Planning

Entries will be judged against their adherence to the six principles and the requirements of the brief set out above.