Brex City/Brex Cathrach: Current and Future Urbanisms of the United Kingdom/Republic of Ireland Border

Laura Coucill, Thomas Jefferies

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This paper presents an analysis of urban spatialites contextualised by and resulting from the political crisis produced by Brexit, which has brought focus on the territorial and spatial operation of the 499km long UK/Republic of Ireland border as a microcosm of the renegotiation of the relationship between the EU and UK.
The location of the UK/RoI border is the result of the internationalisation of former county boundaries. Its status reflects shifts in connectivity between the two sides of a border created in 1921 from what was historically a single territory. Separation produced between 1968-98 by a militarised, yet porous hard border, was radically redefined by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, defining an open border and a situation of seamless interdependency between settlements on either side.
Occupation around the UK/RoI border reveals spatial utilisation, type, and patterns of movement highly particular to this place. Characterised by continuous loose or dispersed urbanism, actively embodying difference; between legal structures, tax regulations, building and urban codes, currency fluctuations and cultural values, united by freedom of movement. Unique building types and settlements where access and egress is only possible by passing through another state reflect a relationship with the border that objectively embodies the lived reality of territorial difference. This situation applies at scales from individual buildings to significant territorial areas, capable of accommodating large infrastructural elements or settlements.
Through a process of critically reviewing the current border condition, this paper proposes possible futures for this place. Brex City/Brex Cathrach directly addresses challenges, absolutes and ambiguities established by Brexit. Identifying latencies and potentialities through enquiry by design, the paper will demonstrate how the border is a unique place embodying duality, a range of possible futures, from seamless to frictionless space to hard border, mirroring the inbuilt paradoxes and tensions of Brexit.


ConferenceUrbanism at Borders
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