Physical Environment Must Change Extensively

15/05/2020
Architects of Northern Ireland call for ambitious changes to built environment to facilitate a resumption of socio-economic activity and launch #OurChangedPlaceNI initiative

The Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) warmly welcomes the initial step announced today by the Minister for Infrastructure to quickly provide increased space for pedestrians in a number of locations in Northern Ireland. 

Responding to the announcement Joan McCoy, President of RSUA said

“This small but tangible step to improve public space for people is a recognition that for society to function better over the coming weeks, months and perhaps years, our physical environment must change extensively. This is not a time for minor tweaks but for big, bold, ambitious changes that not only facilitate a resumption of social and economic activities in the short-term but also leave a lasting legacy of cleaner air, reduced carbon emissions and improved well-being.”

“In the very short term as increasing numbers of people return to their workplace it is not enough to encourage people to walk, run or cycle to work. The Government must create safe space to enable this whilst maintaining full access for people with impaired mobility. There are low cost temporary measures that can be taken quickly which will require the sacrificing of car lanes to put people first.”

“This would be a big challenge on its own but we must also factor in the space required for people queueing outside shops, increased spacing at crossing points and outdoor space for some businesses like cafes to expand into when they are allowed to re-open. By September we need the infrastructure in place to enable the majority of children to safely get to school on foot or bicycle.”

“This is an enormous task. There is no single solution. Each street and area must be assessed to address its own specific needs. The people and the businesses of the area need to be engaged and help shape the changes.”

“In parallel we also need to consider the physical changes that will be required to our internal spaces like offices, shops, healthcare and education facilities to enable social distancing.”

“COVID-19 is affecting everyone in Northern Ireland and therefore the conversation on the changes to our physical environment is one that everyone in society should be involved in. To get the ball rolling RSUA is today launching an initiative called #OurChangedPlaceNI. We are calling on residents, parents, children, business owners, architects, urban designers, landscape architects, civil engineers, planners and anyone else who is interested to post on social media your ideas of the changes you would like to see to your area during this COVID-19 period using the hashtag #OurChangedPlaceNI.”

“Ideas can be presented as words, drawings, doodles, photos, scribbles on maps or in any other way other way you wish to get your idea across. The more specific to your area the better. Feel free to tag your local councillors, MLAs, Department for Infrastructure or whoever you think should be listening.”