Through Thinning Landscapes
Andrew Ó Murchú
BothAnd Group is a research-based design studio investigating the social, ecological and political forces that shape rural territories. We uncover, design for, and translate these concerns through our work in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, and exhibition. Our work has been exhibited at both La Biennale Architettura 2023 and the Tallinn Architecture Biennale 2022.
Our ongoing investigations include an examination of global food landscapes and indigenous land management practices.
Through Thinning Landscapes ran as a temporary installation in September 2020 in the town of Loughrea (Galway, Ireland). Appointed by design competition, the proposal was a critique of the relentless greening of the Irish landscape as a result of our food system. Our competition entry, responding to a brief that asked to activate the local park, proposed to host conversations about Ireland's biodiversity crisis. We chose to actively produce the installation with the community in conversation, identifying what sort of intervention would grow awareness of ecological issues with the locals.
The project developed as an experience which would shift the imaginations of the visiting participants. In “Whittled Away” Irish ecologist Pádraic Fogarty described irish wildlife as having ‘been squeezed into…thin ribbons of treelines and hedgerows’ through the domination of the irish grass crop and ever declining space for biodiversity. In this installation, grass monocultures dominate and loom over a narrow 20 metre long corridor through which there is just enough space to move. The individual is moved through these thinning corridors for Irish wildlife, confronted by their loss. At the far end of the installation is a mirror, positioning the individual as a responsible agent within the complex systems of the environmental crisis.
Assembled as an open timber framework the installation was designed to read as a constructed landscape, uncovering the synthetic nature of the Irish countryside. Our proposal aimed to improve our shared environment for both humans and non-human animals and make an installation to facilitate this conversation.
The final step of the exhibition was to disassemble the materials and donate this to a local community building group who used this to make flower beds for the town. The project was commissioned by the Irish Architecture Foundation and funded by Galway County Council, Galway 2020 and Creative Ireland.