After initially getting the go-ahead earlier this year, the design for the Maze Peace Centre in Northern Ireland, designed by Daniel Libeskind in collaboration with McAdam Architects, was dealt a major blow last week, when First Minister of Northern Ireland Peter Robinson retracted his support for the controversial building, saying that it would be wrong to continue with the build without achieving a consensus.
Read on after the break to find out more about the controversy.
Between 1971 and 2000, the site housed paramilitary prisoners who had been involved in Northern Ireland's Troubles. In 1981, ten of these prisoners died in a hunger strike. By redeveloping the defunct prison, the aim of the Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation, formed to oversee the development of the former prison site, is to "demonstrate how peace could be consolidated by economic development." The Libeskind-designed Peace Centre is seen as a crucial component required to attract investment.
However, the design has been criticized. Libeskind himself has said that he wants the story of those involved in the hunger strikes to be included in the design of the building. This has led some families of IRA victims to worry that it would become a "shrine to terrorism." In light of this, Rory Olcayto of the Architects' Journal has accused Libeskind of having an oversimplified understanding of the issues involved in the Peace Centre, saying "the problem is, unlike the Holocaust... there’s no consensus on that specific matter, nor much else that happened during Northern Ireland’s long sectarian war."
As demonstrated by a BBC article documenting reactions to Peter Robinson's sudden change of heart, this lack of consensus also includes opinions on whether the Peace Centre should be built at all - which now means that the construction of Libeskind's design, and subsequently the redevelopment of the wider Maze site, is in jeopardy. The Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation has asked for urgent clarification on both Robinson's comments and the future of the site.