Derry City Walls: a social spaces strategy
The Holywell Trust, a Derry-based community organization with a peace and reconciliation ethos, is implementing the City Walls Heritage Project, a programme of activities engaging people with the heritage of Derry’s Walls.
The aim of the Project is to fully explore the contested history that the City Walls represent and to celebrate Derry City Walls as a present-day, international, national and local heritage asset, with the potential to unite rather than separate people. The Project seeks to deliver on the Heritage Lottery Fund’s objectives of Conservation, Learning and Participation by:
- helping to conserve Northern Ireland’s diverse heritage for present and future generations to experience and enjoy
- helping people to learn about their own and other peoples heritage
- helping more people, and a wider range of people, to take an active part in making decisions about heritage
RPD Consulting and WMUD were appointed by the Hollywell Trust in August 2012 to act as external regeneration facilitators in respect of the City Walls Heritage Project. The object of the project was to work within the parameters of the wider HLF funded initiative as described above and carry out the following tasks:
- Research, Analysis and Workshops
- undertake a review of the spatial qualities and deficiencies of the City Walls and spaces within the Walled City with a view to providing a visual tool for subsequent community engagement and analysis of possible future interventions
- to facilitate public workshops to explore ways in which appropriate future short and longer term interventions might enhance access to the Walls and develop a greater sense of shared heritage and cultural understanding
- to prepare a Workshop Report (included within a wider report) based on the process and outcomes of the community engagement
- to undertake a review of current planning and conservation policy as it impacts on the management and development of the City Walls
- to consult with key local bodies and organisations with a direct interest in the future of the Walls
- to work with other external facilitators as required
- Spatial Framework
- to develop an illustrated Spatial Framework for the City Walls (with reference to the Walled City and the environs external to the Walls) exploring future possible interventions.
- to develop a concept proposal for the refurbishment of the Plinth
- to work with the Holywell Trust and external conference organisers to develop a conference programme around the City Walls Heritage Project
- Walls Management
- to develop ideas with the Holywell Trust around the future management of the City Walls, with an emphasis on promoting local stewardship and community involvement
A Spatial Framework
Our specific involvement was in developing the spatial framework for the Walls. To do this we carried out a series of analysis looking at:
- the spaces defined on the walls as well as around the walls – inside and outside
- the uses that adjacent buildings have, or might have, that could help to animate these spaces
- programming the spaces along the wall – in other words, what might an annual programme of activities consist of
- well discussed spaces that are intimately associated with the wall plus other connections to the wall and its gates and spaces that would benefit from new approaches
- the potential for shared spaces – in the sense of areas where pedestrians have a clear priority over vehicles
The Walls public realm is a series of linear public spaces with a common theme set beside collections of businesses, institutions and residential areas which in theory could not only animate the walls’ spaces but also benefit from them through increased business opportunities, better living standards, better standards of external space and improvements to traffic-pedestrian interaction.
In essence it is a public space and social spaces strategy that includes history, events, animation, traffic, building re-use – all negotiated through community involvement, management and participation in projects.