“Directly on the borderline, where it crosses the first major north – south road, stands a child’s drawing of a house made real. Four walls, one doorway, two windows and a roof, it could hardly be a simpler structure. No door and nothing inside but a single small room. Housemartins have made mud nests in the rafters. I step in, look out of the windows and then step out. There is nothing else to do.
Only a few feet from the doorway an articulated truck trundles by, raising dust and making the roadside litter dance. Every minute or so another truck goes by, straight over the border. I am standing between Ireland’s north and south, a place now set to become the European Union’s in and out. This tiny house is the only structure here. There are no immigration checkpoints to delay the drivers, at least not yet.
Once a grocery shop stood on this spot but it was burned down in an arson attack. The owners did not rebuild the shop but they knew that leaving the site vacant would mean reapplying for planning permission if they ever did want to construct something here again. So this was quickly put up, a placeholder, just enough to ensure a building lineage is maintained on the site. This is a structure with no purpose other than to simply be.”
Quote used with permission from Garett Carr – The Rule of the Land
In 2000 an Artist called John Byrne borrowed this building and had the idea of converting it into a makeshift border interpretive centre, where visiting tourists could buy badges, sticks of rock and t-shirts saying ‘good luck from the border’. Byrne also sold postcards featuring photographs of modern military watchtowers built in response to a terrorist threat that was still ongoing at that time.
The proposal was to remake a reimagined ‘border interpretive centre’ within the context of the RIBA headquarters referencing the aesthetic of the watch towers, disused fuel stations and other temporary structures particular to the borderlands of Northern Ireland.
The installation would be an informative space containing a desk and seat with headphones where visitors can listen to audio recordings of interviews with people reflecting on their experiences and thoughts of living close to the Irish border.
Beyond the exhibition the installation could function as a shelter or kiosk with the tall element as a marker for a meeting point.
The following slides are from my RIBA presentation and show the development of the project.
You can find a how to for making the Beyond Borders Model here.