Accessing Architecture exhibition finds disabled artists responding to built environment

Amy Frazer from University of Atypical (centre) with Sinéad Bhreathnach-Cashell from NI Screen and University of Atypical Trustee Anna Egner

A NEW exhibition of artwork reflecting disabled people's experiences of the built environment has just opened in Belfast at the University of Atypical for Arts and Disability Gallery on Royal Avenue.

Accessing Architecture finds D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists reflecting on contemporary attitudes and artistic interpretations to access and inclusion in urban design and architecture.

Including work by Paula Clarke, James Ashe, Jacqueline Wylie, Marie-Therese Davis and Helen Hall, the exhibition is the culmination of a two-year project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

This delivered a series of creative workshops, lectures, research opportunities, disability awareness training and a film archive collaboration with Northern Ireland Screen, plus a partner project with the Strand Arts Centre. A documentary film on the project will be released in January 2022.

Sean Fitzsimons, chairperson of the University of Atypical, commented: "The Accessing Architecture project and exhibition address an important aspect of disabled people's experience of the built environment. The project gave an important voice to disabled people who faced barriers to access within the built environment in Belfast and beyond."

Workshops included plaster landscape casting with architect/maker John Donnelly of Model Citizen and Access and Architecture with architect Richard Dougherty.

Deirdre McKenna, exhibition co-ordinator, explained that the two-year project allowed people to explore the built environment through a range of different perspectives.

"Being able to access a building or move through the streets is every person's right. Each of the artists responded to the project in different ways filtering their experiences through their creative process and unique perspective."

The project also offered a series of experimental workshops exploring dance and movement to find ways of expressing our physicality of how we move through our city and surroundings. Impacted by Covid-19 restrictions, many strands of the project had to move online.

Paul Mullan, director Northern Ireland at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: "We are?thrilled?to support?the University of Atypical?in uncovering the cultural heritage of disabled communities in Belfast.

"Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the Accessing Architecture exhibition is bringing forward new and exciting work by D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists. Reflecting on these experiences of accessibility and the built environment will broaden understanding in the wider community."

:: Accessing Architecture runs until Friday January 27 at the University of Atypical Gallery, 109-113 Royal Avenue, Belfast. There will also be a virtual tour available online. To find out more about the exhibition go to

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