Archaeologist in plea to save the Maze from bulldozers

Archaeologist in plea to save the Maze from bulldozers

Postby Paul Clerkin » Tue Aug 16, 2005 6:07 am

It is one of the most notorious prisons in Europe, soon to be transformed into a sports stadium to host football matches for the London Olympics.

But a British archaeologist warns today that the multimillion-pound redevelopment of the Maze prison in Northern Ireland will see hundreds of acres of buildings bulldozered before crucial historical research has been carried out.

Laura McAtackney of Bristol University argues in British Archaeology magazine that the Maze "remains in limbo, at an uncomfortable crossroads between the present and past, between history and heritage".

The prison, which housed some of Northern Ireland's toughest paramilitaries, saw political protest, gun murder and the death of ten republican hunger-strikers.
The site, which is the size of a small town, is to be developed into a sports complex. Fifteen acres of the 365-acre site will become the International Centre for Conflict Transformation, preserving isolated fragments including the hospital building where hunger-strikers died and a section of perimeter wall.

Ms McAtackney acknowledges the politics surrounding the Maze's future but says lack of access has thwarted proper historical research.

Although the last prisoners left four years ago, the prison is still under high security. "There has been limited academic investigation, and few have had unlimited access," Ms McAtackney warns.

She says that the "piecemeal" remains to be kept for the new centre will "create a collection of isolated artifacts" - but not enough to create a comprehensive history.

Around 100 acres of the site have not been allocated a new purpose and will not be used for 15-20 years.They have also been ordered to be "cleared and decontaminated".

"Why clear such an iconic site, much discussed but little researched or understood, before necessity dictates?" Ms McAtackney asks.

Her argument comes as Northern Ireland debates what to do with the architectural legacy of the Troubles while post-ceasefire society rushes to reinvent itself.
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Re: Archaeologist in plea to save the Maze from bulldozers

Postby architect_ryan » Tue Aug 16, 2005 9:52 am

Why must we feel the need to make a Legacy of the worst period of our History? Lets move forward. :)

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Re: Archaeologist in plea to save the Maze from bulldozers

Postby PVC King » Tue Aug 16, 2005 12:40 pm

Wheres bulldozer girl?
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Re: Archaeologist in plea to save the Maze from bulldozers

Postby ctesiphon » Tue Aug 16, 2005 1:57 pm

architect_ryan wrote:Why must we feel the need to make a Legacy of the worst period of our History? Lets move forward. :)


While I understand your desire to see Northern Ireland move on, I can't help recalling this:

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
[George Santayana, Life of Reason, “Reason in Common Sense,” ch. 12 (1905-6).]

An analogy with the Berlin wall would also be germane to this discussion.
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Re: Archaeologist in plea to save the Maze from bulldozers

Postby PVC King » Tue Aug 16, 2005 2:03 pm

I fundamentally disagree that any comparison is appropriate with the Berlin Wall, I also note the date of your quote and the 15 acre reservation on the site for an International Centre for Conflict Transformation. A properly funded architectural competition and budget for completion of same is the only outcome that can be contemplated here.
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Re: Archaeologist in plea to save the Maze from bulldozers

Postby ctesiphon » Tue Aug 16, 2005 2:27 pm

Some years ago while surveying a county town, I debated with some locals whether the nearby children's home/orphanage, which had been recently in the news for the sadly usual story of abuse, should be demolished, protected, sold, redeveloped, etc. Some felt that it was a blot on the landscape and wanted to see it removed, while others thought it served a useful purpose in reminding them of the depths to which humanity had sunk. Those who wanted it gone were also those who were slowest to acknowledge originally that such a thing could have happened in their town. (I'm not accusing you of same, TP.)
When I was in Berlin a year ago, I felt that the remaining stretch of the wall gave added impact to a knowledge I already had, i.e. I was aware of the wall, the reasons for its existence, the horror stories of those who tried to cross etc., but seeing the actual wall made it all more immediate.
An interpretive centre mediates the experience of a place, often in ways that remove our experiences to a safe distance. I think there is value in retaining at least some vestiges of the original structure. (I'd quote Joni Mitchell here, but that's Devin's job. ;) )

I don't understand what the date of my chosen quote has to do with its validity.
Why do you disagree with the comparison with the Berlin Wall?
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Re: Archaeologist in plea to save the Maze from bulldozers

Postby PVC King » Tue Aug 16, 2005 2:32 pm

Because Berlin was at the centre of an international chess game that involved every country in the world comparisons to N.I. are simply not appropriate. The only comparable I have ever seen between the two places was a mural on the former Rhein Main airbase done in 1949 to celebrate the Berlin Airlift which was directed from Rhein Main, the comparison only relates to the existance of a mural which was incidently very high quality no doubt heavily influenced by similar Russian art of the time.
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Re: Archaeologist in plea to save the Maze from bulldozers

Postby architect_ryan » Wed Aug 17, 2005 9:56 am

Personally I do not feel I need a retained Prison to remind me of the struggle that this country has endured over the years. Though I do feel that a visitors centre would be useful to educate the next generations and visitors to N.I as to the true conflict within this country. Is the maze the correct place for this?

The second debate that this thread raises - Does Northern Ireland need a national stadium? And is the MAZE site the correct location for this?

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Re: Archaeologist in plea to save the Maze from bulldozers

Postby JPD » Wed Aug 17, 2005 12:54 pm

Is that article real or is it tonge in cheek?
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Re: Archaeologist in plea to save the Maze from bulldozers

Postby ctesiphon » Wed Aug 17, 2005 1:33 pm

Real, I presume, as someone (probably the same lady mentioned above) was on the (ugh) Ryan Tubridy show this morning talking about it.
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