01 June 2006

No design contest for prison peace centre

Daily Ireland

One of Ireland’s leading architects has called on the British government to commission a design competition for the proposed centre for conflict transformation earmarked for the Long Kesh prison site.
On Tuesday direct-rule minister David Hanson announced an international competition aimed at the world’s top architectural practices, for the showcase stadium proposed as part of the same masterplan for the site ten miles outside Belfast.
“A design competition doesn’t just engage the interest of the world’s most highly regarded architects,” said Belfast-based architect Ciaran Mackel, who is also Daily Ireland’s architecture correspondent.
“It also is best practice, upgrades the importance of the project and leads to truly worldclass work.
“The international centre for conflict transformation, beside the preserved H-Block and prison hospital must be an iconic building, symbolic of the past and expressing hope for the future.
“It requires the same levell of expertise as the stadium and in fact even more imagination and verve since it is a challenge as unique as the Guggenheim in Bilbao or the new Holocaust museum in Berlin.”
Sources in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister said the stadium had been selected for the design competition because it was a larger project than the peace centre.
Aound £7.5 million (€11 million) will be spent on working up the a masterplan to design stage with at least £1.5 million (€2.2 million) being allocated to the design competition for the stadium. The three main sporting codes and the four leading parties in the North will be represented on the selection panel.
Mr Mackel added: “It’s a mistake to have a design competition for the stadium but not for the conflict transformation centre. This should be a unified devellopment with an overarching theme for both flagship projects.”
Since the proposal for a peace centre and stadium was first made, unionists have worked to downgrade the peace centre building, arguing that it be out of eyesight to people approaching the stadium and “buffered” from the stadium by parkland – concessions granted in the outline masterplan unveiled on Tuesday.
“Unionists want a showcase stadium but they are quite happy to have the conflict transformation centre housed in a shed,” said an Office of First Minister source.

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