Myths of Belfast
: the process of poetic experience

  • Andrew Molloy

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Despite being overtaken by newer philosophical theories Cartesian Dualism remains the common-sense model of spatial understanding. This leads to difficulties when it comes to urban masterplans; not just in their formulation but also in their inevitable critique. This thesis seeks to develop a model of spatial understanding which permits a reflexively aware comprehension of the ambiguous nature of urban identity; something which plays a pivotal role in the perceived success or failure of urban plans. The model suggests that understanding – along with the city as a manifestation of social action – is better conceived of as a process rather than a product.

Key to this proposition is the development of a new practice-based mixed methodology. The researcher’s attempts at mapping the city of Belfast developed into the deployment of psychogeographic walking practices to interrogate the urban fabric. These walks – documented in notebooks, photographs and video – became more sophisticated as they were influenced by the contemporary retranslation of psychogeography into mythogeography – as located in the work of Smith.1 The problem of representing these walks lead to the use of film; a technique which also became gradually more sophisticated as urban narratives – or myths – were incorporated into the filmed walks.

Three mythological themes were drawn out of the textual research augmented by a series of interviews conducted using Alvesson’s reflexive interview technique.2 These were used to develop a narrative which, during a six-month residency with the Digital Arts Studio, was used to produce the forty-minute film ‘Myths of Belfast.’ Combining the urban cinematic theory of Penz3 with mythogeographic practice, the film was devised in such a way as to evade the potentially objectified nature of film; instead intended to have a catalytic effect on the process of urban understanding.

In developing a new model of understanding it is demonstrated that the city is better conceived of as a process rather than a product – a non-ideological approach to urbanism highlighting the importance of tacit poetic interpretations when it comes to spatial understanding. This thesis demonstrates that the unique practice-based mixed methodology developed here allows the city to be considered as such, resulting in an enriched understanding of the urban environment.
Date of AwardOct 2018
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorTaina Rikala (Supervisor), Ciaran Mackel (Supervisor) & Liam Kelly (Supervisor)


  • Mapping
  • Cartography
  • Psychogeography
  • Mythogeography
  • Planning history
  • Modernist planning
  • Robert Hogg Matthew
  • Alfred Brumwell Thomas
  • Charles E.B. Brett

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