Tom Keeley, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, UK

Hedge School 2021 is an itinerant architecture and landscape “school” along the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The project began on 3 May 2021 – the centenary of Partition in Ireland – and was completed on 6 December 2022 – the centenary of the creation of the Irish Free State.

The project aims to unpack what living together across borders might mean in 2021 and beyond, doing so in order to explore nuanced understandings of a border where misunderstandings and binaries are commonplace. It does this with the objective of developing critical and creative ways of researching contested histories and landscapes, doing so in a way that the research methods and outcomes are site-specific.

Hedge schools were illicit forms of education in Ireland in the 17th and 18th centuries when the penal laws banned Catholics from accessing formal education. While this contemporary version of the school is inspired by the tradition of this Irish pedagogical precedent, its focus here is on histories and geographies of the border, as told through its architectures and landscapes.

This project seeks to show rather than tell, moving not only along and across the border but also into it, beginning with the border in sight but ending with it perhaps disappearing entirely. It asks how a shifting constellation of landscapes, histories, geographies and architectures – both official and unofficial – have influenced the border, and in turn how they may have been shaped by the border in the first place. It will consist of a series of site-specific installations and performance lectures using landscape as scenography and histories and dramaturge.