The year 2020 will be remembered for the outbreak of Covid-19 around the globe and the boundaries which the Government had to impose on the population; boundaries of 2km and 5km from our homes; boundaries from visiting our elderly relatives and those in high risk categories; boundaries from socialising with friends; and boundaries from exploring the world.
However out of adversity comes opportunity and the Architecture at the Edge (AATE ) festival's theme of 'Boundaries' will explore the frameworks within which we live and work, the systems and environments, physical, social and cultural, that surround us. For director of AATE, Frank Monahan, he believes this year's theme is apt for the festival which aims to connect with as many people as possible, in ways that demonstrate architecture’s relevance to our lives.
He says: "It has been a year like no other, so in responding to the ongoing situation, we saw it as an opportunity to explore and examine how we live, the quality of the environment in where we live, and its impact on our wellbeing. We want to talk the use of public spaces and reimagining our public realm as a place for people.
"The Galway City Council's mobility team is already looking at how the public realm can be used to improve people's experiences [of the city]. If we look at other cities, Milan has announced the scheme to encourage more cycling, Cork has pedestrianised some 14 streets, so we felt it was right to address these issues at the festival.
"In the west of Ireland we have stone walls which are field boundaries, we have the sea which is another boundary, and the city walls are clear physical boundaries, but we want to think about boundaries in wide terms. With the Covid-19 situation we had personal boundaries, but what about the boundaries for women [in employment], the boundaries those experience in direct provision, and Travellers who have big issues, there are so many boundaries [to explore] it is boundless."
AATE Festival 2020
AATE was designed to encourage citizens to explore their built environment, to increase awareness and equip them to better able respond critically to issues contingent with the quality of their built environment.
The festival allows the public an opportunity to discover the built environment from unexpected perspectives, allowing an opportunity to interact with one another and to strengthen our sense of place and community. And while like many festivals in 2020, AATE will take place under restrictions imposed by the Government on gatherings due to the pandemic, Monahan contends 2020's version which takes place from October 2 to 4, will live up to the standards set from the previous three years.
"Normally the festival would enable people to visit buildings, both private and public, which would not be normally open to members of the public. We can't do it [because of the restrictions]. But we will have talks and debates about how we use our public realms from the best and brightest architects from Galway and around Ireland. Our full programme will be confirmed later in the autumn."
Open call for entries
This year the festival will be accepting submissions from architects and artists for projects for ‘The Boundaries Commission’, part of Architecture at the Edge Onsite. The Boundaries Commission is a collaboration of AATE, Galway County Council and Mayo County Council and its ambition is to create a series of spatial or site specific interventions by architects/ artists in the west of Ireland. Responses may include but are not limited to temporary site specific indoor or outdoor works, temporary installations, workshops, or online events.
Monahan says entrants, who will be competing for one of the three prizes of €1,500, will be asked to look at the impact of Covid-19 on people and how they can re-evaluate public space for the public's use.
"We are asking entrants 'How we do shape the public realm in a post-Covid-19 world and who is it for?' Currently there is a big drive towards cycling in the city and also restaurants expanding onto the streets with tables and chairs. But we have to remember Galway is the cultural capital [of Europe for 2020], where is the space for culture? We have really good culture of performing arts in Galway with Macnas making great use of our public spaces but where do we see the likes of the performers at Druid?
"We have three awards of €1,500. This is the first time we have done this. Certain industries have been badly affected [during the pandemic] but arts is disproportionately affected with every worker from crew member to artistic perfomer suffering. The [total] €4,500 is a good chunk of budget but we believe this a good way to spend it.
"The competition is open to everyone and like previous AATE themes, we want participants to interpret and respond to it with imagination, flair, and enthusiasm. Deadline for submissions is August 28."
For more information visit www.architectureattheedge.com