Critical Spatial Practice

Alternative Arrangements: Walking the Border in Ireland (2016 – ongoing)
  • Tom Keeley | Republic of Ireland/Northern Ireland.

  • 1 2 3 4, EU House 5, Pettigo to Belleek 6, Derry Walls
  • Alternative Arrangements: Walking the Border in Ireland (2016 – ongoing)
  • Tom Keeley | Republic of Ireland/Northern Ireland.
  • ‘So what are you doing here?’
    ‘I’m walking the border’
    ‘Oh you mean the British border?’
    ‘Well the Irish didn’t put it there did they?’

    The border in Ireland runs 310 miles from Lough Foyle to the Irish Sea and has divided the six counties of Northern Ireland from the Republic since 1921. Its sinuous route stems from 17th-century county boundaries, the irregularities of which are heightened due to the unique relationship between architecture, history, geography, and politics in these islands.

    With the so-called ‘Irish Question’ remaining relevant to UK politics for more than 200 years, and now once more due to Brexit, this research uses lessons of the border to produce a public architectural history that looks forward and looks back. It questions how sites of the border tell the history of its past, present, and future condition. 

    The research understands the contested spatiality of the Irish borderlands through a series of walks along and across the border, both alone and with others. These routes are determined by key historical moments, showing how the border has been seen or inflected differently over time. Through the walks these histories are connected spatially, deriving from, and relating to, key sites along the border where they take place. 

    This approach is underpinned by the restaging of a ‘hedge school’: an 18th and 19th-century Irish pedagogical precedent used to develop a method that practices history with others. The timing of this is critical; conducted as the centenary of Partition in Ireland approaches in 2021 and as the UK exits the EU.

    This work tests a way of producing a public architectural and landscape history that takes research beyond the archive and the academy; responding to the specific geographies and histories of the border, as well as the daily practices around it. It asks how histories – both official and unofficial – have influenced the border, and in turn how they may have been shaped by the border in the first place.


    Tom Keeley is an architectural historian working between architecture, geography, landscape and culture through site-specific writing, practice-based research, and publishing. He is currently undertaking a PhD in Architectural History and Theory at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, supervised by Jane Rendell and Barbara Penner, and funded by the London Arts & Humanities Partnership. Prior to this he studied landscape architecture at the University of Sheffield, and an MA in Architectural History at the Bartlett. He teaches at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University, and Central Saint Martins.

    Previous projects include fanzine Go Sheffield! and experimental university Learning from Kilburn. He has worked for organisations including The Architecture Foundation (London, UK), Storefront for Art and Architecture (New York, USA), and Space Caviar (Genoa, Italy). His work has been exhibited internationally, including at the Salone del Mobile Milan and the Venice Architecture Biennale; and is held in the collections of the National Art Library at the V&A in London, and the School of Architecture Library at Princeton University. 


    My work has tended to begin with a text/texts, found or otherwise, and works with them in relation to a certain site/sites. The site-specific nature of each piece of work evolves from a process of re-reading and movement in relation to the texts, histories, spaces, practices and politics of each site; layering and shifting them in relation to one another to understand them from a different point of view. This close looking at everyday – or even ‘banal’ – architectures and landscapes, in conjunction with an experimental means of dissemination, invites a broad public to engage with the work with the eye of a critical tourist. 

    Text, Site, Method, Topography, Landscape, Movement


    Reyner Banham, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies (1971)

    G. Boumphrey, , The Shell Guide to Britain (1964)

    The Center for Land Use Interpretation, Culver City, USA 


    3 editions of Keeley Travel.

    Other projects
  • Visible vs Invisible, (2022–)
  • Naisten Kaupunki – Työkaluja oman tilan valtaamiseen, (City of Women — Tools for Occupying Space) (2022) 
  • Moonfuture: Migration, Images and the Geological Interior (2022)
  • Dissolving the Dwelling (2021–2)
  • Washing White (2021)
  • Um Slaim Collective (2021)
  • Sonic Acts of Noticing (2021)
  • MGM_OurStarterCulture_5
    Our Starter Culture, (2021)
  • Milan Gender Atlas, (2021)
  • Making Map I: Animals and Anachronistic Architectures, development in progress (2021–)
  • Collateral (2021)
  • The Wandsworth Food Bus, (2020)
  • Progetto Minore. Alla ricerca della minorità nel progetto archiettonico ed urbanistico (2020)
  • 1-DMZ
    Architecture and Co-Existence: DMZ as Site, (2020)
  • Time on Site (2019)
  • Stori Mwd (A Story of Mud), (2019)
  • not nothing (August 2019)
  • Hungry Mothers, En La Frontera (2019 – present)
  • Exchanging Values at Bank (18 October 2019)
  • Cybiog: locating the digital self, (2019/20, 2 mins 45 secs)
  • Civic Pedagogy, learning as critical spatial practice (2019)
  • An Independent and Flexible and Precarious and Overworked Rehearsal, (January – December 2019)
  • An environmental history of La Guajira (2019)
  • A Weird-Tender in progress (2019)
  • Cecilie Sachs Olsen
    A walk in your words (25.01.2019)
  • Portal Zaryadye: A Portal Not Only to Heaven, But Aslo To Hell (24 July – 12 August 2018)
  • Text-isles: sowing an idea, October (2018)
  • Gilly-image-1
    Silent Conversation, (2018 – ongoing)
  • Objects removed for study (2018)
  • Female Futures Lexicon on Space (2018/2019)
  • 5, Big Bang 2 / Mid Graemetruby
    Bank Job, (2018–2020 and beyond)
  • Natalia Irina Roman, Tick Tack, Berlin (2019). Photographer: Natalia Irina Roman
    Along the Lines (2018–)
  • windwoundweatherwovenwirewoman [performance] (2017)
  • Viscous Myths (2017/2018)
  • The Pass (October 2017 – June 2018)
  • The House Alice Built (2017/2019)
  • Productive Withdrawals: Art Strikes, Art Worlds, and Art as a Practice of Freedom (December 2017)
  • Request for the unrequested voluntary interlinguisticality (2017)
  • Caring for Communities (2017 – 2019)
  • Bodies + Borders (2017 – present)
  • a place called … (Spring 2017)
  • Uppland (2016 – 18)
  • Music for Masterplanning (2016 – 17)
  • P | A | N – Proyecto Amasandería Nacional (2016)
  • Make Me Yours: How Art Seduces (2016)
  • Island Icarus (2016–2019)
  • In My Mothers’ Garden: Memories and practices of Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp (2016)
  • Having not felt like eating, but eaten, I sat down to eat / tea … (2016)
  • Desiring the Dark: Feminist Scenographies, the City and the Night, (2016–2019)
  • Bamboo dialogues (2016)
  • ASSET ARREST (2016)
  • Alternative Arrangements: Walking the Border in Ireland (2016 – ongoing)
  • Matter of the Manor (2015 – 19)
  • The First World Congress of the Missing Things (2014)
  • Private Choices, Public Spaces (2014)
  • Hanging Matters (2014)
  • Act#5 & Act#6: What does Mai Mai Mean? (March 2014 – December 2016)
  • 03-FLATS (2014)
  • (small memorials), 2013–15
  • Mount Patawerta
    Gardening for Untold Ecologies: A Manual for Making an Arid GARDEN Out There, (2013)
  • A Game of Dominoes (2013)
  • Lina & Gio: the last humanists (February – June 2012)
  • Learning-through-Touring (2012)
  • Empty Words Build Empty Homes (2012)
  • Ridley’s (2011)
  • Hustadt project, 2008 – (2011)
  • Palimpsest Performances (2010 – 2014)
  • Negotiating Conflict: Bordering Practices in a Divided Beirut (2010 – 2014)
  • Expanded Architecture (2010 – 2014)
  • Unfixing Place: A Study of Istanbul through Topographical Practices (2008)
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