Signs of a city: semiotic markers at odds with constructed narratives in Belfast

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Belfast, perhaps despite, perhaps because of its ‘troubled’ past, is a city with culture, memory, history and myth at its core. Now architecturally and geographically permeated the city has, since the ‘Troubles’ of the 1960s, seen a prescribed solution of walls concentrated in the city’s most socio-economically deprived areas. The duality of the walls continues to ensure isolation of communities in social housing estates located on the city’s arterial routes, while major roads initiatives further redefine its boundaries. Currently the city centre is seeing unprecedented redevelopment to create a culturally neutral commercial and tourist hub, underpinned by a narrative of carefully selected stories, reinforced by appropriate ‘visual and architectural representation’. With construction at its highest level since 2008 and 30 development schemes underway or recently completed ‪#BelfastCraneCount‪, currently trending on twitter, reports 27 cranes in the Belfast skyline. The city is has become an architectural composite as postmodern structures fracture the traditional Victorian red brick and sandstone landscape, eradicating ‘memories, history and identity attached to the architecture and place’. Indeed ‘facadism, it seems, may often be the best architectural heritage bodies can hope for in preserving something of Belfast’s historic built environment. Yet on the city’s arterial routes cultural identities remain bound up in built environments still divested with meaning through signs and symbols, where collective memory, hegemonies and group ideologies ensure a narrative of continuity. Even with a ‘genius loci’ constantly under threat, the socially produced symbolic landscape of the city’s arterial routes remains imbued with meaning through tangible and visible expressions of culture. This paper, a result of interdisciplinary inquiry, examines how Belfast’s greater built environment is divested with meaning, as buildings and signage combine to create a sense of place. Supported by a photographic archive, the paper demonstrates how such an inquiry can provide a reliable barometer of socio-economic and societal undercurrents, despite any ‘smoke and mirrors’ reimaging concentrated on the city’s core, redefining how the city is ‘viewed by others’, if not by the inhabitants themselves.
LanguageEnglish
Pages283-296
Number of pages14
JournalAMPS Proceedings Series
VolumeSeries 10
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 26 Oct 2017

Fingerprint

semiotics
narrative
social housing
twitter
collective memory
redevelopment
history
cultural identity
city center
Ideologies
inhabitant
social isolation
tourist
symbol
myth
building
continuity
road
threat
community

Keywords

  • Belfast
  • interface
  • signage
  • graffiti
  • murals
  • flags
  • semiotics
  • space
  • place
  • city
  • urban environment
  • housing estates

Cite this

@article{c7b7f174abf94f1f957d31f87f65743f,
title = "Signs of a city: semiotic markers at odds with constructed narratives in Belfast",
abstract = "Belfast, perhaps despite, perhaps because of its ‘troubled’ past, is a city with culture, memory, history and myth at its core. Now architecturally and geographically permeated the city has, since the ‘Troubles’ of the 1960s, seen a prescribed solution of walls concentrated in the city’s most socio-economically deprived areas. The duality of the walls continues to ensure isolation of communities in social housing estates located on the city’s arterial routes, while major roads initiatives further redefine its boundaries. Currently the city centre is seeing unprecedented redevelopment to create a culturally neutral commercial and tourist hub, underpinned by a narrative of carefully selected stories, reinforced by appropriate ‘visual and architectural representation’. With construction at its highest level since 2008 and 30 development schemes underway or recently completed ‪#BelfastCraneCount‪, currently trending on twitter, reports 27 cranes in the Belfast skyline. The city is has become an architectural composite as postmodern structures fracture the traditional Victorian red brick and sandstone landscape, eradicating ‘memories, history and identity attached to the architecture and place’. Indeed ‘facadism, it seems, may often be the best architectural heritage bodies can hope for in preserving something of Belfast’s historic built environment. Yet on the city’s arterial routes cultural identities remain bound up in built environments still divested with meaning through signs and symbols, where collective memory, hegemonies and group ideologies ensure a narrative of continuity. Even with a ‘genius loci’ constantly under threat, the socially produced symbolic landscape of the city’s arterial routes remains imbued with meaning through tangible and visible expressions of culture. This paper, a result of interdisciplinary inquiry, examines how Belfast’s greater built environment is divested with meaning, as buildings and signage combine to create a sense of place. Supported by a photographic archive, the paper demonstrates how such an inquiry can provide a reliable barometer of socio-economic and societal undercurrents, despite any ‘smoke and mirrors’ reimaging concentrated on the city’s core, redefining how the city is ‘viewed by others’, if not by the inhabitants themselves.",
keywords = "Belfast, interface, signage, graffiti, murals, flags, semiotics, space, place, city, urban environment, housing estates",
author = "Ruth Brolly and Ian Montgomery",
note = "UIR Compliant - evidence uploaded to other files Reference text: “Belfast Crane Count” Gary Potter, accessed 10/05/17 https://www.scribblemaps.com/maps/view/Belfast_Crane_Count/Lmgu_NaQzG. Robert Bevan, The Destruction Of Memory: Architecture At War, (London: Reaktion, 2006) Outrage over demolition of old buildings in city centre”, Belfast Telegraph, accessed 4/02/17, http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/outrage-over-demolition-of-old-buildings-in-city-centre-35263810.html. “Swanston’s Warehouse”, Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, accessed 6/04/17 http://www.uahs.org.uk/campaigns/current-campaigns/swanstons-warehouse/ Impact of the conflict on public space and architecture, A Troubles Archive Essay From the collection of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Ciaran Mackel, accessed 10/04/17, http://www.troublesarchive.com/resources/impact_of_the_conflict_public_space.pdf Catherine Switzer and Sara Mcdowell, Redrawing Cognitive Maps Of Conflict: Lost spaces and forgetting in the centre of Belfast. Memory Studies 2009 2: 337, accessed 15/04/17, http://mss.sagepub.com/content/2/3/337 David Brett, The construction of heritage, (Cork University Press, Cork. 1996) 1–4. “Back Then: Belfast Inspired the Tall Tale of Gulliver’s Travels”, Belfast Telegraph, accessed 1/05/17 http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/archive/places/back-then-belfast-inspired-the-tall-tale-of-gullivers-travels-30977711.html Kevin Lynch, The Image Of The City. (M.I.T. Press, Cambridge Mass.; London, 1973), 1. John Montgomery, Cultural Quarters as Mechanisms for Urban Regeneration. Part 1: Conceptualising Cultural Quarters', Planning Practice & Research, 18:4, 293-306, (2003): 293 accessed 24/05/17, http://rsa.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/1561426042000215614 “Call to ‘develop not demolish’ iconic Cathedral Quarter”, ITV News, accessed 24/05/17, http://www.itv.com/news/utv/2017-04-01/call-to-develop-not-demolish-iconic-cathedral-quarter/ Hakan Erterp “Chaos Or Homogenization? The Role Of Shop Signs In Transforming Urban Fabric In Beyoğlu, Istanbul”. Visual Communication (2009): 269, accessed 11/02/16, http://vcj.sagepub.com/content/8/3/26 William, J.V. Neill, Urban Planning and Cultural Inclusion. Lessons from Belfast and Berlin., (Palgrave, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 2001): 6. Yi-fu Tuan, Space and place: The perspective of experience. (London: Edward Arnold, 1977): 6. Judith Williamson, Decoding advertisements, (Marion Boyars, London 1978): 13. Catherine Switzer and Sara McDowell, “Redrawing cognitive maps of conflict: Lost spaces and forgetting in the centre of Belfast”, in Memory Studies 2 (2009): 337, accessed 21/03/16. R.C. Murray, Belfast: The Killing Fields, in Fred.W. Boal and Stephen A. Royle (eds), Enduring City: Belfast in the Twentieth Century, (Belfast: Blackstaff, 2006) 225–9. Housing Executive, accessed 07/05/17 http://www.nihe.gov.uk/index/community/community_cohesion/bric.htm {"}“Refugee Sudanese family forced from Belfast home after racist attack”, Belfast Telegraph, accessed 15/05/17. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/refugee-sudanese-family-forced-from-belfast-home-after-racist-attack-35672718.html Call to tackle Northern Ireland segregation with mixed housing estates”, Belfast Telegraph, accessed 07/05/17, http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/call-to-tackle-northern-ireland-segregation-with-mixed-housing-estates-28538497.html “Adams warns ministers IRA has not gone away”, Independent, accessed 15/05/17 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/ira-has-not-gone-away-adams-warns-ministers-ira-has-not-gone-away-1596152.html Fredrick .W. Boal, Shaping a city: Belfast in the late twentieth century, (Queen's University of Belfast, Institute of Irish Studies for the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Belfast, 1995): 151. Malachy McEldowney, Ken Sterrett and Frank Gaffikin, Architectural Ambivalence: the Built Environment and Cultural Identity in Belfast, in Urban planning and cultural inclusion, William, J.V. Neill and H. Schedler, eds. (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave, Macmillan, 2001): 105. Martin Pawley, Terminal Architecture. (London: Reaktion, 1998): 152. Forum For Alternative Belfast, Happy to Live Here 2. (Belfast: PLACE, 2012):11. Couple loses everything after petrol bomb attack guts home”, ITV News, accessed 02/06/17, http://www.itv.com/news/utv/2017-05-15/couple-loses-everything-after-petrol-bomb-attack-guts-home/ Martin Heidegger,& David Farrell Krell, Basic writings from 'Being and time' (1927) to 'The task of thinking' (1964), (Routledge and Kegan Paul, London etc. 1978; 1977). P.D. Smith, City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age (Bloomsbury UK. Kindle Edition, 2012): Locations 1237-1238. Malachy McEldowney, Ken Sterrett and Frank Gaffikin, Architectural Ambivalence: the Built Environment and Cultural Identity in Belfast, in Urban planning and cultural inclusion, William, J.V. Neill and H. Schedler, eds. (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave, Macmillan, 2001): 104. Robert Bevan, The Destruction Of Memory: Architecture At War, (London: Reaktion, 2006): 168. “Together: Building a United Community – a policy document setting out the power-sharing Executive’s approach to building a shared society in Northern Ireland”, Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister: accessed 24/05/17, http://www.ofmdfmni.gov.uk/together-building-a-united-community. “Flaws exposed in plans to remove Northern Ireland’s peace walls”, The Detail, accessed 24/05/17, https://www.thedetail.tv/articles/government-revise-down-interface-removal-target The outstanding walls (from the latest count) are controlled by organisations including Belfast City Council (2), Invest NI (2), Belfast HSC Trust (1), The Department for Infrastructure/DRD (3), private (5) and unknown owners (8).That there are privately owned walls and unknown owners, would seem to undermine official plans for removal, suggesting some possibility of resurgence through the work of independent stakeholders. “Flaws exposed in plans to remove Northern Ireland’s peace walls”, The Detail, accessed 24/05/17, https://www.thedetail.tv/articles/government-revise-down-interface-removal-target http://www.belfastinterfaceproject.org/. Belfast Interface Project, accessed 26/05/17 http://www.belfastinterfaceproject.org/interfaces-map-and-database-overview Belfast Interface Project, accessed. 26/05/17 https://www.thedetail.tv/articles/government-revise-down-interface-removal-target Accessed 26/05/17 “Attitudes to Peace Walls”, A report conducted by the University of Ulster, accessed 19/10/15, http://www.ark.ac.uk/peacewalls2012/peacewalls2012.pdf. The report revealed that 69{\%} of residents living at the walls maintain that the peace walls are still necessary because of the potential for violence. “Why Northern Ireland's 'Peace Walls' Show No Signs Of Following Berlin's Example”, Huffington Post, accessed 20/10/14, http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/11/03/peace-walls-northern-ireland_n_6093634.html. http://www.ninis2.nisra.gov.uk/public/InteractiveMapTheme.aspx?themeNumber=136, accessed 26/05/17 Donald Appleyard, Why Buildings Are Known: A Predictive Tool for Architects and Planners. Environment and Behavior, December 1969; vol. 1, 2: 132, accessed 18/10/15, http://eab.sagepub.com/content/1/2/131. Jock Kinneir, Words and buildings: the art and practice of public lettering, (Architectural Press, London,1980):73. Catherine Switzer and Sara McDowell, Redrawing Cognitive Maps Of Conflict: Lost spaces and forgetting in the centre of Belfast. Memory Studies 2009 2: 348, accessed 15/04/17, http://mss.sagepub.com/content/2/3/337 Jane Jacobs, The Death And Life Of Great American Cities,",
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Signs of a city: semiotic markers at odds with constructed narratives in Belfast. / Brolly, Ruth; Montgomery, Ian.

In: AMPS Proceedings Series, Vol. Series 10, 26.10.2017, p. 283-296.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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T1 - Signs of a city: semiotic markers at odds with constructed narratives in Belfast

AU - Brolly, Ruth

AU - Montgomery, Ian

N1 - UIR Compliant - evidence uploaded to other files Reference text: “Belfast Crane Count” Gary Potter, accessed 10/05/17 https://www.scribblemaps.com/maps/view/Belfast_Crane_Count/Lmgu_NaQzG. Robert Bevan, The Destruction Of Memory: Architecture At War, (London: Reaktion, 2006) Outrage over demolition of old buildings in city centre”, Belfast Telegraph, accessed 4/02/17, http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/outrage-over-demolition-of-old-buildings-in-city-centre-35263810.html. “Swanston’s Warehouse”, Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, accessed 6/04/17 http://www.uahs.org.uk/campaigns/current-campaigns/swanstons-warehouse/ Impact of the conflict on public space and architecture, A Troubles Archive Essay From the collection of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Ciaran Mackel, accessed 10/04/17, http://www.troublesarchive.com/resources/impact_of_the_conflict_public_space.pdf Catherine Switzer and Sara Mcdowell, Redrawing Cognitive Maps Of Conflict: Lost spaces and forgetting in the centre of Belfast. Memory Studies 2009 2: 337, accessed 15/04/17, http://mss.sagepub.com/content/2/3/337 David Brett, The construction of heritage, (Cork University Press, Cork. 1996) 1–4. “Back Then: Belfast Inspired the Tall Tale of Gulliver’s Travels”, Belfast Telegraph, accessed 1/05/17 http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/archive/places/back-then-belfast-inspired-the-tall-tale-of-gullivers-travels-30977711.html Kevin Lynch, The Image Of The City. (M.I.T. Press, Cambridge Mass.; London, 1973), 1. John Montgomery, Cultural Quarters as Mechanisms for Urban Regeneration. Part 1: Conceptualising Cultural Quarters', Planning Practice & Research, 18:4, 293-306, (2003): 293 accessed 24/05/17, http://rsa.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/1561426042000215614 “Call to ‘develop not demolish’ iconic Cathedral Quarter”, ITV News, accessed 24/05/17, http://www.itv.com/news/utv/2017-04-01/call-to-develop-not-demolish-iconic-cathedral-quarter/ Hakan Erterp “Chaos Or Homogenization? The Role Of Shop Signs In Transforming Urban Fabric In Beyoğlu, Istanbul”. Visual Communication (2009): 269, accessed 11/02/16, http://vcj.sagepub.com/content/8/3/26 William, J.V. Neill, Urban Planning and Cultural Inclusion. Lessons from Belfast and Berlin., (Palgrave, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 2001): 6. Yi-fu Tuan, Space and place: The perspective of experience. (London: Edward Arnold, 1977): 6. Judith Williamson, Decoding advertisements, (Marion Boyars, London 1978): 13. Catherine Switzer and Sara McDowell, “Redrawing cognitive maps of conflict: Lost spaces and forgetting in the centre of Belfast”, in Memory Studies 2 (2009): 337, accessed 21/03/16. R.C. Murray, Belfast: The Killing Fields, in Fred.W. Boal and Stephen A. Royle (eds), Enduring City: Belfast in the Twentieth Century, (Belfast: Blackstaff, 2006) 225–9. Housing Executive, accessed 07/05/17 http://www.nihe.gov.uk/index/community/community_cohesion/bric.htm "“Refugee Sudanese family forced from Belfast home after racist attack”, Belfast Telegraph, accessed 15/05/17. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/refugee-sudanese-family-forced-from-belfast-home-after-racist-attack-35672718.html Call to tackle Northern Ireland segregation with mixed housing estates”, Belfast Telegraph, accessed 07/05/17, http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/call-to-tackle-northern-ireland-segregation-with-mixed-housing-estates-28538497.html “Adams warns ministers IRA has not gone away”, Independent, accessed 15/05/17 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/ira-has-not-gone-away-adams-warns-ministers-ira-has-not-gone-away-1596152.html Fredrick .W. Boal, Shaping a city: Belfast in the late twentieth century, (Queen's University of Belfast, Institute of Irish Studies for the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Belfast, 1995): 151. Malachy McEldowney, Ken Sterrett and Frank Gaffikin, Architectural Ambivalence: the Built Environment and Cultural Identity in Belfast, in Urban planning and cultural inclusion, William, J.V. Neill and H. Schedler, eds. (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave, Macmillan, 2001): 105. Martin Pawley, Terminal Architecture. (London: Reaktion, 1998): 152. Forum For Alternative Belfast, Happy to Live Here 2. (Belfast: PLACE, 2012):11. Couple loses everything after petrol bomb attack guts home”, ITV News, accessed 02/06/17, http://www.itv.com/news/utv/2017-05-15/couple-loses-everything-after-petrol-bomb-attack-guts-home/ Martin Heidegger,& David Farrell Krell, Basic writings from 'Being and time' (1927) to 'The task of thinking' (1964), (Routledge and Kegan Paul, London etc. 1978; 1977). P.D. Smith, City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age (Bloomsbury UK. Kindle Edition, 2012): Locations 1237-1238. Malachy McEldowney, Ken Sterrett and Frank Gaffikin, Architectural Ambivalence: the Built Environment and Cultural Identity in Belfast, in Urban planning and cultural inclusion, William, J.V. Neill and H. Schedler, eds. (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave, Macmillan, 2001): 104. Robert Bevan, The Destruction Of Memory: Architecture At War, (London: Reaktion, 2006): 168. “Together: Building a United Community – a policy document setting out the power-sharing Executive’s approach to building a shared society in Northern Ireland”, Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister: accessed 24/05/17, http://www.ofmdfmni.gov.uk/together-building-a-united-community. “Flaws exposed in plans to remove Northern Ireland’s peace walls”, The Detail, accessed 24/05/17, https://www.thedetail.tv/articles/government-revise-down-interface-removal-target The outstanding walls (from the latest count) are controlled by organisations including Belfast City Council (2), Invest NI (2), Belfast HSC Trust (1), The Department for Infrastructure/DRD (3), private (5) and unknown owners (8).That there are privately owned walls and unknown owners, would seem to undermine official plans for removal, suggesting some possibility of resurgence through the work of independent stakeholders. “Flaws exposed in plans to remove Northern Ireland’s peace walls”, The Detail, accessed 24/05/17, https://www.thedetail.tv/articles/government-revise-down-interface-removal-target http://www.belfastinterfaceproject.org/. Belfast Interface Project, accessed 26/05/17 http://www.belfastinterfaceproject.org/interfaces-map-and-database-overview Belfast Interface Project, accessed. 26/05/17 https://www.thedetail.tv/articles/government-revise-down-interface-removal-target Accessed 26/05/17 “Attitudes to Peace Walls”, A report conducted by the University of Ulster, accessed 19/10/15, http://www.ark.ac.uk/peacewalls2012/peacewalls2012.pdf. The report revealed that 69% of residents living at the walls maintain that the peace walls are still necessary because of the potential for violence. “Why Northern Ireland's 'Peace Walls' Show No Signs Of Following Berlin's Example”, Huffington Post, accessed 20/10/14, http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/11/03/peace-walls-northern-ireland_n_6093634.html. http://www.ninis2.nisra.gov.uk/public/InteractiveMapTheme.aspx?themeNumber=136, accessed 26/05/17 Donald Appleyard, Why Buildings Are Known: A Predictive Tool for Architects and Planners. Environment and Behavior, December 1969; vol. 1, 2: 132, accessed 18/10/15, http://eab.sagepub.com/content/1/2/131. Jock Kinneir, Words and buildings: the art and practice of public lettering, (Architectural Press, London,1980):73. Catherine Switzer and Sara McDowell, Redrawing Cognitive Maps Of Conflict: Lost spaces and forgetting in the centre of Belfast. Memory Studies 2009 2: 348, accessed 15/04/17, http://mss.sagepub.com/content/2/3/337 Jane Jacobs, The Death And Life Of Great American Cities,

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N2 - Belfast, perhaps despite, perhaps because of its ‘troubled’ past, is a city with culture, memory, history and myth at its core. Now architecturally and geographically permeated the city has, since the ‘Troubles’ of the 1960s, seen a prescribed solution of walls concentrated in the city’s most socio-economically deprived areas. The duality of the walls continues to ensure isolation of communities in social housing estates located on the city’s arterial routes, while major roads initiatives further redefine its boundaries. Currently the city centre is seeing unprecedented redevelopment to create a culturally neutral commercial and tourist hub, underpinned by a narrative of carefully selected stories, reinforced by appropriate ‘visual and architectural representation’. With construction at its highest level since 2008 and 30 development schemes underway or recently completed ‪#BelfastCraneCount‪, currently trending on twitter, reports 27 cranes in the Belfast skyline. The city is has become an architectural composite as postmodern structures fracture the traditional Victorian red brick and sandstone landscape, eradicating ‘memories, history and identity attached to the architecture and place’. Indeed ‘facadism, it seems, may often be the best architectural heritage bodies can hope for in preserving something of Belfast’s historic built environment. Yet on the city’s arterial routes cultural identities remain bound up in built environments still divested with meaning through signs and symbols, where collective memory, hegemonies and group ideologies ensure a narrative of continuity. Even with a ‘genius loci’ constantly under threat, the socially produced symbolic landscape of the city’s arterial routes remains imbued with meaning through tangible and visible expressions of culture. This paper, a result of interdisciplinary inquiry, examines how Belfast’s greater built environment is divested with meaning, as buildings and signage combine to create a sense of place. Supported by a photographic archive, the paper demonstrates how such an inquiry can provide a reliable barometer of socio-economic and societal undercurrents, despite any ‘smoke and mirrors’ reimaging concentrated on the city’s core, redefining how the city is ‘viewed by others’, if not by the inhabitants themselves.

AB - Belfast, perhaps despite, perhaps because of its ‘troubled’ past, is a city with culture, memory, history and myth at its core. Now architecturally and geographically permeated the city has, since the ‘Troubles’ of the 1960s, seen a prescribed solution of walls concentrated in the city’s most socio-economically deprived areas. The duality of the walls continues to ensure isolation of communities in social housing estates located on the city’s arterial routes, while major roads initiatives further redefine its boundaries. Currently the city centre is seeing unprecedented redevelopment to create a culturally neutral commercial and tourist hub, underpinned by a narrative of carefully selected stories, reinforced by appropriate ‘visual and architectural representation’. With construction at its highest level since 2008 and 30 development schemes underway or recently completed ‪#BelfastCraneCount‪, currently trending on twitter, reports 27 cranes in the Belfast skyline. The city is has become an architectural composite as postmodern structures fracture the traditional Victorian red brick and sandstone landscape, eradicating ‘memories, history and identity attached to the architecture and place’. Indeed ‘facadism, it seems, may often be the best architectural heritage bodies can hope for in preserving something of Belfast’s historic built environment. Yet on the city’s arterial routes cultural identities remain bound up in built environments still divested with meaning through signs and symbols, where collective memory, hegemonies and group ideologies ensure a narrative of continuity. Even with a ‘genius loci’ constantly under threat, the socially produced symbolic landscape of the city’s arterial routes remains imbued with meaning through tangible and visible expressions of culture. This paper, a result of interdisciplinary inquiry, examines how Belfast’s greater built environment is divested with meaning, as buildings and signage combine to create a sense of place. Supported by a photographic archive, the paper demonstrates how such an inquiry can provide a reliable barometer of socio-economic and societal undercurrents, despite any ‘smoke and mirrors’ reimaging concentrated on the city’s core, redefining how the city is ‘viewed by others’, if not by the inhabitants themselves.

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