St James' Community Farm

MMAS Architects, Belfast, 2021



All photographs MMAS Architects / John Murphy, Aurora     Download Original

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An existing piece of vacant, publicly owned land in West Belfast was identified by local people as a potential community resource.

A proactive group of residents decided to adapt the space – situated between the Bog Meadows nature reserve and the terraced streets of St. James’ neighbourhood – as an urban farmyard, and have since erected ad hoc structures and enclosures, populating the site with some crops and livestock.

The farm has become a much–loved aspect of the neighbourhood, with inner-city citizens waking to the evocative and stirring sound of a cock crowing. Local children are learning about life and food, gaining new skills and interests. With views of nearby Bog Meadows, surrounding hills and city landmarks, the farm occupies the peripheral space between landscape and city.

The initial design intention was to use a linear form of simple monopitched buildings to shelter central, interior space from road noise, fumes and excessive breezes, thus creating a micro-climate conducive for growing, playing and hosting performances, discussions and events.

These prefabricated modular forms would be clad in reflective metal on the exterior to refer to typical agricultural buildings while creating a robust ‘shell’ to the outside. Within the main farm and garden space, the buildings would be clad by the farm’s volunteers with ‘found’ timber, to be treated and fixed on site.

The resulting structure of the community building displays tactile and characterful facades, reflecting the ad–hoc and self–built spirit of the farm at present. With the involvement in the construction and curation of the building’s external appearance, a deeper pride and ownership of the finished project has been cultivated.


  • Begun: Oct 2020
  • Completed: May 2021
  • Floor area: 153m2
  • Sector: Education
  • Total cost: £210,000
  • Funding: BCC Local Investment Fund, Department for Communities and Whitemountain Programme (Groundwork NI)
  • Tender date: Mar 2019
  • Procurement: NEC4 short
  • CO2 Emissions: .3kg/m2/year
  • Address: Rodney Parade, Belfast, BT12 6ED, United Kingdom

Professional Team