We are pleased to outline in our Autumn Edition a number of areas of our work that we hope will be of interest.

How MAG Can Help

Front cover og how MAG can help document

As announced in our very first MAG newsletter in spring of 2021, and as part of our ongoing outreach effort, MAG is delighted to introduce you to the inaugural document in our work-stream series MAG Principles called “How MAG Can Help”. This first document presents the means and ways through which MAG is here to support communities, developers, local authorities and government to create high-quality buildings and places that promote well-being, sustainable futures and the economy in Northern Ireland. You can access the How MAG can Help document on the DfC website.

Over the last two years, MAG has been assessing the processes that best deliver projects that fulfil their potential, including ongoing engagement in relation to how projects are procured.

It is clear that the projects that deliver best outcomes are those where the client has architecture + built environment expertise ‘in house’ or where those skills are accessed from an early stage in decision-making. Where that is not the case and where projects are presented for Design review at a relatively advanced stage of development are routinely the instances where the outcomes are compromised. This is a frustration to those concerned.

It was in this context that the Permanent Secretary of DfC, Tracy Meharg sent a letter to other Permanent Secretaries, offering workshops with MAG to explore how the various Departments can best utilise the skills and expertise that MAG can provide from the earliest stages of a project’s life, including and importantly, before a Design Team is appointed. A number of these workshops have now, helpfully, taken place. Whilst each Department is different in its requirements, it was recognised that there are a number of issues that are of common interest. With that in mind, it is proposed to initiate a series of webinars, addressing key topics. These will start in the New Year and will be publicised nearer the time.

If anyone, whether central or local government or from the private or voluntary sector would like to arrange a workshop to explore the ways in which MAG can assist them, please contact the MAG Secretariat.

West Belfast Peace Line

plan overview of West Belfast peace walls

Since the start of its new term, MAG has been engaged in discussions and facilitation of a wide group of stakeholders on the subject of the past, present and future of the West Belfast Peace Line, with a particular focus on Cupar Way.

MAG is thrilled to continue to build upon the wealth of knowledge already accumulated on the subject by involving many more community, business and academic groups in upcoming workshops and conversations. This work is of utmost importance to all of us and we look forward to support decision makers, facilitate conversations and provide our independent expertise on how to bring about a better environment for all communities in West Belfast.

This work is ongoing, and we look forward to sharing more information on the subject in future issues of this newsletter.

MAG Briefing and Design Review

view of derry/londonderry from across river foyle

MAG’s Briefing and Design Review service is being increasingly used to help deliver design quality in the built environment. Most recently Tony Monaghan, Regeneration Manager from Derry City & Strabane District Council commented that the MAG process “has been very beneficial to Council, our design team and partners. I think the comments and recommendations will not only assist us with the delivery of our meanwhile scheme, but also with helping to shape any medium/longer term urban design vision which may be developed for this part of the historic Walled City in the future,  incorporating all of MAG's observations in a coordinated and integrated way. We very much look forward to continued engagement with MAG both during and beyond this project and more than happy to re-engage in the very immediate future.” 

MAG brings a diversity of expertise to help scope potential within capital projects. Eamon Molloy of Derry City and Strabane District Council commented “we found the process useful and informative.  The panel demonstrated a wide range of experience and specialisms, which contributed greatly to the end report. It was also extremely beneficial to have both local members and members who were not from NI on the panel. This gave an added dimension and increased independence to the review.”

MAG tailors the expert panel to the project ensuring a focussed outcome to the process. Catherine McEvoy of DfI recently commented that the “Review was at a level which was understandable for those with a non-technical background.  It picked up the key issues identified in pre-brief conversations and set out options for how these could be addressed.”

MAG’s latest Briefing and Design Review Guidelines reflects evolving best practice to ensure successful designed outcomes. Public expectation of the quality of our built environment is increasing and there is a responsibility on all to ensure capital projects deliver real value and across a range of criteria: strategic design advice is the means to identify and inform those criteria - MAG is the readily accessible and free source for strategic design advice.

MAG Survey

two people walking in a wood

“Our Lockdown World” survey was conducted as a follow-up to MAG’s ‘Our Changing World’ survey, which ran from 13 May 2020 to 1 June 2020. In the original survey, we sought to gather and analyse views from the general public on the impact of the first COVID-19 related lock-down. The survey collected information on the changed ways in which people saw and made use of their homes and neighbourhoods, and on how they spend time in their places of work, leisure, learning and living.

In this follow-up survey conducted during the second national lockdown, we sought to find out what (if anything) had changed. What were the lasting effects and impact of the first lockdown? One year on, how did people feel about their home, their garden or their local park, their place of work, their neighbourhood, their commute, their places for leisure and social interaction.

You can find MAG’s commentary on the results and the complete survey report as analysed by the statisticians within the Professional Services Unit of the Department on the DfC Website.

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