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Please scroll down to view background information and research interests of participants.


Nancy Anderson              PhD student, the Institute of Irish Studies

Paul Bower                     PhD student, Center for Built Environment Research

Dominic Bryan                Director, the Institute of Irish Studies

Therese Cullen                PhD student, the Institute of Irish Studies

Peter Doak                     PhD student, School of Sociology, Social Policy & Social work

Frank Gaffikin                 Director, Institute of Spatial and Environmental Planning

Rosaleen Hickey              PhD student, Center for Built Environment Research

Christiaan Karelse           Research Ass., Institute of Spatial and Environmental Planning

Agustina Martire             Tutor, School of Planning, Architecture & Civil Engineering

Aisling Shannon Rusk      PhD student, Institute of Spatial and Environmental Planning

Ken Sterrett                   Lecturer, Institute of Spatial and Environmental Planning

Alterosje Asri                  PhD Student, School of Planning, Architecture & Civil Engineering

Andrew McNeill               PhD Student, School of Psychology

Andrew Molloy                PhD Student, University of Ulster

Carey Doyle                    PhD Student, School of Planning, Architecture & Civil Engineering

Clare Mulholland              PhD Student, School of Planning, Architecture & Civil Engineering

Emma Farnan                  PhD Student, University of Ulster

Keith Henry                     PhD Student, University of Ulster

Liam O’Dowd                   Professor, School of Sociology, Social Policy & Social work

Milena Komarova             Research Fellow, Institute for the study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice 

Martina McKnight             Research Assistant, School of Planning, Architecture & Civil Engineering

Mirona Gheorghiu            Lecturer, School of Psychology

Tim Cunningham             PhD Student, University of Ulster



Nancy Anderson

PhD Student, Institute of Irish Studies

My name is Nancy Anderson and I am currently a PhD student in the Institute of Irish Studies.  The road to starting my PhD began when I graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 2004 with my BFA in sculpture and my Masters in Arts Management.  I went on to work in exhibition design and fundraising for a new museum in Washington, DC for 4 years.  While working on this project I decided to re-enter education and pursue a MA in Irish Studies.  During that time I attended the Irish Studies Summer School at Queen’s and became interested in how government funded policies were being implemented to address issues surrounding the use and access of public space.  With my background in the arts, I chose to focus on the Re-Imaging Communities Programme.

 The Re-Imaging Communities Programme was overseen and run day to day by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.  The Programme ran from 2006 to late 2010.  It was originally funded with £3.3 million but met with more demand than they had originally anticipated so it continued to receive an influx of investment.  The main goal of the Programme was to give communities an opportunity to address ‘negative’ imagery in their areas, such as murals, kerbstones, and graffiti, and replace it with ‘positive’, ‘cultural’ imagery.  My work examines how this Programme seeks to redefine space through a top down approach, providing opportunities for communities but also allowing the government, through its representatives, to influence those public spaces.


Paul Bower

PhD Student, Center for the Built Environment Research

Prior to commencing his PhD Paul was an urban designer for 4 years at URBED (Urbanism, Environment & Design) a workers cooperative in Manchester. Paul studied Architecture at both degree and masters level at Sheffield School of Architecture and was nominated for the Bronze and Silver RIBA President's Medals Student Awards. With a keen interest in architectural education, Paul is an active graduate member of the visiting RIBA Validation Panel and occasionally runs design workshops in the M.Arch course at Sheffield University.

Paul started his PhD at SPACE, Queen’s University Belfast in September 2011 with the working title: The Architecture (of) Occupation : Rethinking Architectural Practice through Contested and Critical Contexts.


Dominic Bryan

Director, Institute of Irish Studies

Dr Bryan has developed a research agenda exploring rituals, symbols and memory as they influence identity and social space in Ireland. Much of his early research focused upon Orange parades in Northern Ireland (see Orange Parades: Ritual tradition and Control Pluto Press 2000) but the research now covers a much broader range of rituals and activities including St Patrick’s Day, The Lord Mayor’s Show and Carnival in Belfast. In addition, Dr Bryan has a major four year project looking at the popular flying of flags in Northern Ireland.

Since 2005, Dr Bryan with Dr Clifford Stevenson (University of Limerick) and Dr Gordon Gillespie (Institute of Irish Studies, Queen’s University), have been examining the use of flags and emblems in public spaces in Northern Ireland (funded by the First and Deputy First Ministers Office in Northern Ireland). This research includes surveys of public space in Northern Ireland examining when flags and other emblems are being displayed and when they are being taken down. In addition, attitude surveys (conducted by the Northern Ireland Life and Times) and ethnographic case studies add richness to understandings of these public practices.

From 2008, a further ESRC/IRCHSS funded project in partnership with Prof. Steve Reicher (St. Andrews University) and Prof. Orla Muldoon and Dr. Clifford Stevenson (University of Limerick) will examine St Patrick’s Day and the commemoration of the Easter Rising in Belfast and Dublin. Our research aims to examine these events to see how they work to represent the Irish national community and to transform this to shared understandings. Firstly we will examine how those organising each of the event use the symbols and images from the events to broadcast their own 'brand' of Irishness through the media. Then we will talk to people attending the events, as well as those who do not, to see how actually being present at these public occasions affects the way people think about their own Irishness.

In all this research Dr Bryan examines the policy implications of the way public space is utilised and how it influences people identity. As such, the outcomes of the research have implications for conflict resolution and understanding why violent conflict has been such a part of Northern Ireland’s recent history and why violence has diminished.


Therese Cullen

PhD Student, Institute of Irish Studies

I am a third year PhD student at the Institute of Irish Studies. Prior to Queens, I received a BA in Sociology and Theology from The University of St Thomas in St Paul, Minnesota, an MA in Theology from Catholic Theological Union, Chicago and an MPhil in Reconciliation Studies from Trinity College Dublin.

Based in anthropology my research focuses on how St Patrick is publically ritualised and memorialised on his given feast day in Downpatrick.  With a background in theology, I am interested in how ritual and symbols are used by individuals and groups to exhibit identity.  With regard to space, St Patrick’s parades take place in public and communal areas – how that space is managed and interpreted by various groups and how to celebrate shared events will be considered. The parade, whilst disrupting the hegemonic hold on celebrations, still has a long way to go.

Unlike Belfast, whose St Patrick’s parade only entered the city centre in 1998, Downpatrick has held a parade in the town since the early 1990s and has tended to be cross-community in nature. Last year the parade was overshadowed by the presence of an Irish Tricolour leading the procession. This highlights the challenges of having shared events in shared space. What shared space actually means for the parade has been more like a custody- sharing out of space, i.e. ‘your group can have it one day and ours the next.’ But how is space occupied and shared in shared events?


Peter Doak

PhD Student, School of Sociology, Social Policy & Social work

Protestant ‘Alienation’ and ‘Reengagement’ in Derry/Londonderry as the ‘UK City of Culture’ 2013

My research is concerned with Derry’s designation as ‘UK City of Culture’ (2013) as a case for qualitatively examining channels for and levels of local Protestant engagement with their ‘post-conflict’ city. Despite rhetorical assertions to the contrary, there has thus far been an ambivalent response to the award.  While some members of the city’s Protestant community are vocal in their support for the award, and are actively participating in events associated with it, others articulate a discourse of ‘alienation’ – claiming to be socially, economically, politically and culturally marginalized from both the celebrations and civic life more generally. The notion of Protestant ‘alienation’ is not peculiar to Derry; the concept pervades much Protestant discourse throughout Northern Ireland. In Derry however, perhaps due to the local Protestant community’s demographic, political and territorial minority status, ‘alienation’ is often discussed primarily with reference to specifically local issues of urban marginality and civic disengagement. One particularly controversial issue here is the Protestant community’s almost total institutional and residential withdrawal from Derry’s Cityside. This part of the city, which lies on the west bank of the River Foyle, contains the majority of the cultural amenities and venues due to be utilised in 2013. It is perhaps therefore unsurprising that some members of the local Protestant community have located the UK City of Culture award within a broader discourse of ‘alienation’. Yet, within the same community it is apparent that others are greeting the award with enthusiasm, arguably treating it as a mechanism for facilitating their civic ‘reengagement’. Seeking to understand this apparent discrepancy, my assertion is that Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus, capital, hysteresis and doxa provide a theoretical framework for insight and illumination of the dynamics of this historically fraught relationship between a city and its community.


Frank Gaffikin

Director, Institute of Spatial & Environmental Planning

Frank is Director of Research in the Institute of Spatial and Environmental Planning (ISEP) and Course Director of the MSc programme in Spatial Regeneration.

Frank’s research interests have shifted in recent years from a focus on the labour market and social exclusion to include: planning in contested space; the university as an urban institution; and participatory integrated planning and new governance. In the past, he has been involved in major research projects on community education; regional economies; and the evaluation of European anti-poverty programmes and urban programmes. More recently, he has worked with Queen’s University colleagues on a number of major action-research projects, including ones related to Regional Development and Metropolitan Planning.

Currently, Frank is Principal Investigator in a number of research projects: Planning for Spatial Reconciliation; CU2 (Contested Cities, Urban Universities); Shared Space for a Shared Future; and a Research Council project on Sustainable Communities. In addition, he is co-Principal Investigator with Prof. Tony Gallagher in the Community Builders action-research project. Taken together, these form a coherent engaged interdisciplinary research programme with colleagues Dr Ken Sterrett, Prof. Malachy McEldowney and Gavan Rafferty, supported by nearly £1 mn of funding. They operate in collaboration with a range of urban agencies, and with colleagues in the University of Warwick, University of Manchester; Columbia University, New York; and especially with Prof. David Perry in the University of Illinois, Chicago.


Rosaleen Hickey

PhD Student, Center for the Built Environment Research

I graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2010 with a First Class MA (Hons) degree in Architectural History. Upon returning to Belfast, I furthered my understanding and appreciation of my home city, leading architectural tours within Belfast on behalf of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, Place NI and Belfast City Council. I also devised a tour which ran daily throughout the Cathedral Quarter Festival 2011; ‘Cathedral Quarter: Birthplace of a City’ explored the origins and early development of the city and examined key buildings within the ‘quarter’. Overall, I am motivated by a desire to raise awareness of the importance of our built environment. Throughout my research, I have been fascinated by the intrinsic and instrumental value of the built environment and its potential to transform and enrich.                                                                                                                         

I began a PhD studentship at QUB in October 2011. My current research intends to assess the role of architecture, urban design and urban planning in healing divided cities. A comparative analysis between Belfast and Nicosia will be conducted in order to establish the role of the three disciplines in dealing with current spatial development and social issues and the extent to which they can contribute to the shaping of the future of these two wounded cities. Following a desire to be practically relevant, I envisage that my study will transcend theory, and produce solid recommendations for built environment professionals when dealing with cities in conflict. Although informed by case studies within Belfast and Nicosia, the recommendations should have a wide applicability, and prove to be of relevance to the growing number of conflicted cities.


Christiaan Karelse

Research Assistant, Institute of Spatial & Environmental Planning

My name is Chris Karelse and I have recently been appointed the role of research assistant working on the research project “Planning for Spatial Reconciliation”. In this role I will be collaborating with Frank Gaffikin and Ken Sterrett (principal investigators), and with Aisling (PhD student).

I graduated from the Delft University of Technology, School of Architecture, Urbanism and Building Engineering in spring 2010. As a research-minded architect, my background lies primarily in the field of urban analysis and spatial design. In addition, I have a strong affinity with urban planning and urban policy.   Both these disciplines I further elaborated on during my graduation project “Urban Asymmetries”, which is a design studio that aims at the understanding of the processes and conditions that produce uneven - or asymmetrical - development in contemporary urban environments. In particular, I analysed the socio-spatial consequences of the advancement of neoliberal planning policies and practices in the U.S. context.

The research project “Planning for Spatial Reconciliation” takes the transfer of planning powers from central to local government, projected to be completed under the current Conservative/LibDem administration, as a starting point.  The main objective will be to investigate how these proposed changes can crystallise into a more comprehensive and inclusive planning model.  Within the process of rethinking and reorganising the current planning system the focus will be on addressing the issue of spatial division between the two communities, an issue that still persists in contemporary Northern Ireland society, in a more pro-active and collaborative way, thereby promoting the notion of ‘shared society’ as a central feature of the new planning model.


Agustina Martire

Tutor, School of Planning, Architecture & Civil Engineering

I am a lecturer in Architecture at QUB since September 2010 and I specialise in urban history and theory, and teach these at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

I studied architecture at the University of Buenos Aires, where I specialised in history and theory and worked as an assistant in teaching and research. I graduated as an architect in 2001 with a design thesis and a funded research thesis. 

After working as an architect on landscape and architecture competitions during 2 years I moved to the Netherlands, where I worked for some months at NOX, as a model maker.

In 2005 I was accepted as a Doctoral candidate at Delft University of Technology, where I carried out research on waterfront cities. I defended my thesis: "Leisure Coast City. A Comparative History of the Urban Leisure Waterfront. Barcelona. Chicago. Buenos Aires. 1870.1930" in May 2008. I then worked on a project with MSc students in Delft for a guidebook of Buenos Aires, and I taught courses on tourism policies at the European University in Barcelona. During 2009 and 2010 I worked as a post-doctoral researcher in the project on the cultural significance of historic urban landscapes based at University College Dublin and funded by the OPW.

My main interest lies in the history and theory of built space, focusing on urban waterfronts and historic urban landscapes. I am now especially interested in the spatial and social impacts of infrastructure in the urban fabric, working on a series of projects involving railway stations and streetscapes in current and historical perspectives.


Aisling Shannon Rusk

PhD Student, Institute of Spatial & Environmental Planning

Having studied and practiced architecture for nine years in England, Scotland and Wales, I have returned home to Belfast in January 2012 to start a PhD studentship as part of the research project, ‘Planning for Spatial Reconciliation’, led by Prof. Frank Gaffikin and Dr. Ken Sterrett. Throughout my architectural training I have been motivated by a building or space’s ability to affect people’s feelings and behaviour. Spaces can be designed to influence how safe one feels, how inclined to interact, how much and in what way one feels ownership. Equally, the design of a space can marginalise, segregate, threaten and reinforce prejudices. My interest in this inspired my M.Arch thesis at Cardiff University in 2010, which focussed on the spatial implications of conflict in Belfast, looking in particular at peace walls and interfaces. This research forms the framework for the proposal with which I have embarked upon my studentship. My theoretical framework draws from semiotic and memory theory, particularly the notion that the past is always embedded in the present, and that of a collective memory sustained by objects and social interaction (Halbwachs, Nora, Huyssen, Assman). I feel that it is essential to acknowledge the relationship between memory and place in order to maximise a space’s capacity to contribute to peace. At this very early stage in my research journey, I do not know in what direction this proposal will ultimately lead me, but I seek to inspire creative responses towards countering the ‘irreversible ratchet effect’ (Boal 1995) of segregation in Belfast.


Ken Sterrett

Lecturer, Institute of Spatial & Environmental Planning

Ken has been a lecturer in the School since 1994. He previously worked in professional practice as a senior planner and was an advisor to the Belfast Action Teams on a number of peace-line projects. Ken is a member of the Wales Spatial Plan Management Board and is also a planning advisor to Down District Council. He is also active in a number of community based regeneration groups in Belfast, including: the Donegall Pass Development Company; South Belfast Regeneration Steering Group and the West Belfast Partnership Board. Currently Ken is an external examiner at Liverpool John Moore’s University.

Ken was previously Head of the School of Environmental Planning before it was amalgamated with the Schools of Architecture and Civil Engineering to form SPACE. He is currently the Director of the MSc programme in Urban and Rural Design.

Ken’s research interests include participatory planning, community planning and the potential of integrated spatial planning. In recent years he has worked with colleagues on a number of major action-research projects including two European funded research projects and an ESRC project all of which explore aspects of the themes outlined above. Ken also has an ongoing interest in urban and rural design and is particularly interested in the social shaping of aesthetic perceptions. He is the Track Co-ordinator and ‘discussion chair’ for the theme: Urban and rural design and the built heritage at the Sustainability, Space and Social Justice conference in March 2008. Ken has co-authored a number of journal articles with colleagues at Queen’s on the theme of participatory planning as well as book chapters on the social shaping of rural design. He is currently preparing articles on community planning and community perceptions of designed environments.


Contact Information

  • Queen's University Belfast
  • University Road
  • BT7 1NN
  • Belfast, Northern Ireland

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