Forum for an alternative Belfast

Happy To Live Here?

The “Happy to Live Here?” exhibition was created by architects Mark Hackett and Declan Hill, in conjunction with PLACE Built Environment Centre. The exhibition is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and it was originally shown at PLACE in November 2005.

It took as its starting point a review Housing Policy Initiative released in January 1996. The Policy was published as a guidance document, “Creating Places: Achieving Quality in Residential Developments” in May 2000.

The exhibition aimed to examine and question how the “Blue Book,” as it has come to be known, has impacted on housing since 1996. It investigates many different issues including the orientation of houses, car parking, street layouts, the re–use of old buildings, possibilities for apartment living and home energy costs. The exhibition shows a particular interest in the quality of the public spaces, amenities and infrastructure around housing developments, and this interest is reflected in the images you see.


Contemporary living culture in the media tends to concentrate on the object, the room and the house, often as a commodity. Television programmes and magazines offer people images frequently emphasising the speed and achievability of these changes. People feel they can improve and control their environments, their homes.

This exhibition focuses less on the houses in which people in Northern Ireland live and instead investigates the spaces around the house: the front door, the pavement, the garden, the street and ultimately the spaces that make up a neighbourhood, a community or a town.

In recent decades, many people have come to feel they have less involvement with the decisions that make up their local environments. The exhibition examines examples throughout Northern Ireland and asks questions of policy makers, designers and indeed of our own individual expectations from the place we want to call home.

In the exhibition, people will see many familiar places: their old street, their first house or indeed somewhere they aspire to live. We hope this exhibition will remind people of the importance of our public and communal spaces, our streets, our towns and our landscape.

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