Winning scheme aims to turn publicly owned site into sustainable housing development

Matthew Lloyd Architects has emerged as the victor in a Belfast urban design competition organised by Take Back the City.

Take Back the City is a coalition comprising families in need of housing, as well as experts in planning, architecture, and design. The organisation’s objective is to transform 25 acres of publicly-owned land in west Belfast into an inclusive and sustainable housing development.

The international urban design competition was launched in May of last year to address the pressing housing crisis and rising poverty in North and West Belfast. The aim was to showcase how the former Mackies site, located off Springfield Road, could be reimagined and revitalised.

Among the 11 entries shortlisted from around the world, the ogaisers said that Matthew Lloyd Architects’ proposal stood out as the winner due to its emphasis on fostering “connectivity, links between communities, sustainability and habitability”.

Matthew Lloyd Architects was awarded a £10,000 prize sponsored by the Oak Foundation. The ceremony took place at Forthspring Inter Community Group, which is situated near the Mackies site. 

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Matthew Lloyd said: “What really motivated us to compete was the socially-oriented nature of the project. The brief for this competition was not your typical architect’s brief; it was people-centred and truly appealing.”

“Collaboration will be key in bringing this plan to life on the site, and we are excited to get involved and showcase what can be achieved.”

Marissa McMahon of Take Back the City said: “We held this competition because our local housing system is completely broken, and local authorities are either unable or unwilling to develop effective ideas to reduce the ever growing housing waiting lists in our communities. We looked beyond our borders for the best the world has to offer and were overwhelmed by the quality of designs.

“Matthew Lloyd and his team perfectly addressed the brief developed by families in housing need. His design was endorsed in an unparalleled process of community engagement which included hundreds of local people in public events and thousands more online before being judged by an international panel of experts.

“Working with Matthew and his team we will now submit the plan for the approval of local council and the support of elected representatives. Council’s local development plan provides a framework for the people of Belfast to participate in decisions about how our land is used.

“We do not need to suffer a housing crisis. We do not need to suffer a cost of living crisis. We have a choice. We can build a sustainable city, without walls, where every child has a home and that is what the Take Back the City plan aims to achieve.”