CAMOUFLAGE METROPOLE: Mourne and Cooley Ranges, Ireland

OVERVIEWSet within the dramatic environs of the Mourne and Cooley Mountains that inspired the mystical landscapes and folkloric creatures of the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, this studio will explore the creation of a distributed metropole straddling Carlingford Lough. A water-filled gorge framed by the Mourne and Cooley Mountains, which for centuries has been recognized as a border between provinces, Carlingford Lough has defined (since 1920), the eastern end of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, U.K. The sublime landscape of the Mourne and Cooley Mountains is among Ireland\’s most attractive tourist destinations. Lying roughly halfway between Dublin and Belfast, the area has recently swelled with tourists, nature seekers, and residents from Dublin and Belfast retiring or building second homes. The low-lying areas throughout this region are characterized by waterfront settlements and centuries-old agricultural patterns that persist today as small farms and grazing lands. The metropole will create networks between the distinct, but overlapping geographies of the mountains and lough, farms, villages and ports, allowing these areas to retain their present uses, while becoming part of a larger coordinated system of sites, services and ecologies. The goal will be to design architecture and infrastructure that support the evolving programmatic typologies of the region while mediating the borders between the different cultures and avocations that are vying to co-exist in the region. These include: small-scale farming, eco-tourism, camping, rally racing, mountain climbing, hiking, golfing, horse racing, boating, and fishing. BACKGROUND: MINING THE GEOLOGICAL SUBLIMEThe studio is being conceived against the background of a long-standing organized campaign to create a \’National Park\’ to \’preserve\’ the Mourne Mountains, setting \’nature\’ aside from the cultivated valleys. The desire for a National Park was recently formalized into a proposal, which has met with significant opposition from local farmers and landowners who fear that a legislative re-designation could place great pressures and limitations on their holdings. Moreover, if poorly conceived, a National Park could reinforce the co-linear border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, undermining the potential for differing geologic and ecologic boundaries to bridge political divides and create a new, cross-border calculus. Three distinct municipalities – the counties of Louth, Dundock, and Newry & Mourne, representing both sides of the political border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, are sponsoring the work of the studio in an attempt to open discussions about the future transformation of this area to creative thinking and design-based solutions. The studio will take a critical position on the creation of a nature preserve/national park by pursuing a Transnational Metropole. The idea of wilderness \’set-asides\’ was first advocated in the late 19th century, and grew out of a tendency to make absolute and ultimately artificial distinctions between nature and civilization. At its worse, the wilderness \’set-aside\’ has historically given rise to the perception that areas that are not set aside may be taken as property subject to development in ways that ignore their aesthetic or ecological value to the larger situation of which they are a part. Today, in an area such as the Mournes/Cooley range, simple distinctions between nature and civilization can no longer stand, given the way in which various ecologies, physical and geological structures, cultural histories and practices, and contentious political boundaries have come to be conflated there.The areas under consideration, including to some extent the mountains themselves, have been transformed by successive forms of cultivation and settlement since first being discovered by Vikings earl