Derry cross-border region can grow despite Brexit

Pictured at the launch of the Atlas for a City Region project in Harvard University, Massachussetts on Thursday is Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council Cllr. Nicholas Crossan, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr. Michaela Boyle with members of the North West Trade and Investment delegation, with Gareth Doherty Professor and Director of the Landscape Architecture program at Harvard GSD and Niall Kirkwood, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Technology and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Harvard GSD
Pictured at the launch of the Atlas for a City Region project in Harvard University, Massachussetts on Thursday is Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council Cllr. Nicholas Crossan, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr. Michaela Boyle with members of the North West Trade and Investment delegation, with Gareth Doherty Professor and Director of the Landscape Architecture program at Harvard GSD and Niall Kirkwood, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Technology and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Harvard GSD

After 18 months of research including fieldwork in the north west of Ireland, Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) formally launched their findings of the ‘Atlas for a City Region’ project at a special event in Harvard University, Massachussetts.

The event was attended by the visiting delegation from Ireland North West led by Mayors Cllr Michaela Boyle and Cllr Nicholas Crossan from Derry City and Strabane District Council Donegal County Council, and included Council Chief Executives John Kelpie and Seamus Neely.

The project ‘Atlas for a City Region’ was jointly commissioned by both Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council and has been borne out of the unique cross-border collaborative approach adopted by the two councils, who are firmly of the view that despite Brexit and indeed the border, their region including Letterkenny, Derry and Strabane, has the potential to continue to grow and prosper.

The final report is structured around three questions. Is there a cross-border region in the Irish Northwest? How to draw that region on a map? And how might the region develop over the next two hundred years?

In answering these questions, twenty-seven students from Harvard University travelled to the Northwest for fieldwork in spring 2019. One group of students gathered evidence of a cross-border region.

Working with Niall Kirkwood, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Technology and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Harvard GSD, another twelve students imagined the future of the region in light of Brexit and changing climates.

“If we don’t imagine the future, we have no hand in shaping it,” said Professor Gareth Doherty, who was the lead investigator for this project and a native of Carndonagh in Co. Donegal.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr. Michaela Boyle believes that the concepts and ideas presented by this project will play a vital role in informing the direction of travel for the region, and that the hands on approach taken by Harvard GSD’s students during their visit to the region earlier this year has allowed them to develop a deeper insight into the lives that are lived in the region, the challenges that are faced, and most importantly the opportunities that exist.

“The students engaged with, not only the terrain and policy makers, but with our communities and with people living in our communities.

“This is very much reflected in many of the proposals presented and I think these experiences have added a greater depth and understanding to the student’s ideas and concepts.

“This project has been about imagining our future, it has been about looking at the potential impact of major events such as Brexit and climate change, rising sea levels and higher temperatures and what we can do to mitigate the adverse impact of these events.

“This has resulted in a suite of imaginative, innovative and unique proposals that can only enrich plans for the future development of the city region.”