Building Material 2009

Image 1: Plans for Moylurg Tower C. 1972   Image 2: Moylurg Tower, Lough Key  Image 3: Reimagined Plans  Image 4: Plans for Moylurg Tower C. 1972



Below is a research text that was published in “Building Material – The Architects of Ireland Association Journal” issue 19.

Reimagining the Hierarchy of Monuments

On the 1st of February 1966, Fehily and Associates were instructed by what was then Bord Fáilte Éireann to prepare plans for the development of a forest park at Lough Key, Co. Roscommon on a site owned by the Department of Lands. The proposed plans included the design of a viewing tower. The architect, Jim Fehily, imagined this tower being integrated into its natural surroundings; its immersion into nature a pre-requisite of its aesthetic. Resisting the urge to create a pastiche or refer to classical architectural forms, the architect looked to Brutalism – a genre usually associated with the post war social utopia of 1950’s urbanism – as opposed to the bucolic and the romantic landscape.

These plans were never fully realised. Budget restrictions prevented the tower from being completed to the architect’s specifications. This documentation represents an artist’s attempts at re-imagining an architect’s vision, an endeavor to communicate his intentions. Made works question the relationship between the built and natural environment; our perception of and interaction with sites of apparent natural beauty is considered and how we catalogue the functions and roles of the places we encounter is a primary concern of this research.

By altering the preconceptions of a site, we may also be able to change its function or divert its historical categorisation by questioning the selection of sites we consider worthy of historicisation or preservation. The fascinating thing about these almost functionless buildings or projects – or perhaps in this case the absence of the realisation of the architect’s full intention – is that they might be considered non-places, blank canvases onto which other people can project their own ideals and utopias.

The Lough Key Forest Park was originally landscaped early in the nineteenth century. Western culture was experiencing a seismic change in attitude towards the landscape as landscape design became employed as a means of perfecting nature through remodeling the great estate parks to resemble a neat and tidy version of nature. As one historian, Richard Bisgrove, has commented:

‘By judicious manipulation of its components, adding a tree here or a concealed head of water there, [landscape architects] attended to the formal potential of ground, water, trees and so gave to landscape its ideal forms… less sophisticated spectators did not see nature perfected… they saw simply what they took to be nature.’ (1)

The Moylurg Tower stands on the historically significant site of Rockingham House, home to the King Family who commissioned the original landscaping. In the 1950’s the State and a group of local activists acquired the park and landscape architect, Jim Fehily, was contracted to restore the grounds and develop facilities in the park similar to the Wilderness Parks of the United States. Lough Key was one of the first of this model of landscaping in Ireland, as too was the Moylurg Tower unique using the Brutalist form in a rural context.

In the text, Of Other Places, Michel Foucault (2) contests the traditional notion of linear time, asserting that concepts of time have been understood in several ways, under varying historical circumstances. He argues that our relationships to and how we negotiate with spaces are constantly being remapped and rearticulated. He defines three core social spaces as the real, the utopian and the heterotopian. Of the heterotopian, he notes that it is

“site with an alternative relation to time, marked by the perpetual and indefinite accumulation of time, constituting a place of all time that is in itself outside the realm of normal chronology; in effect, heterotopia has its own time zone(s), or even none at all. (3)

My work attempts to portray this notion of a space being in its own time zone, one which is marked by the accumulation of time through its social and historical experiences. Could the Moylurg Tower be described as a heterotopia?

Though stylistically the tower may seem obscure in its rural setting, through the video piece From a Great Height the similarities in ideologies between the Romantic landscaping of the nineteenth century and Utopian ideas, which were never fully resolved in the Moylurg Tower, are explored. Mahler’s unfinished Piano Quartet (1876) in the final clip reinforces the sense of ‘what could have been’. Not known for writing piano quartets, Mahler was only sixteen when he began writing it and it was never completed.

By adopting a mirroring of the park against the tower by means of two projections, the dependence of one upon the other, the built upon the natural, is uncovered and the duality of their existence is exposed. Standing taller than the mansion it replaced, the Moylurg Tower now allows the public the opportunity to engage with the surrounding landscape and provides views which now exceed those originally reserved for the landed gentry. This work intends to present the tower as marking a point in time when the local community regained access to the parklands they had previously been denied.

(1) Cite MD. Cite MD (ITP) [Internet], California, ITP Available from [Accessed 25 June 2009]
(2) This text, entitled “Des Espace Autres,” and published by the French journal Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité in October, 1984, was the basis of a lecture given by Michel Foucault in March 1967. Although not reviewed for publication by the author and thus not part of the official corpus of his work, the manuscript was released into the public domain for an exhibition in Berlin shortly before Michel Foucault’s death. This text was accessed online at [ Accessed 25 June 2009]
(3) Sophia, Ace. Foucault’s Heterotopia: The “Other” Spaces Between What is Real and Utopian. 13th February, 2008. 20th April 2009.



Linda Shevlin has curated, facilitated and managed both large and small-scale visual arts projects including the 53rd Venice Biennale where she was project manager for the representative artists Gareth Kennedy & Sarah Browne and is Tulca Festival curator for 2018.

In 2017 she was the invited curator for the Hennessy Art Fund, purchasing new works for the IMMA collection and also curated the visual art programme for Bealtaine Festival 2017/2018 where she developed projects, commissions, residencies & exhibitions. with numerous Irish artists including Vivienne Dick, Kathy Prendergast, Kevin Gaffney, Pauline Cummins and Frances Mezzetti.

In 2016 she curated Radical Actions at RMIT Galleries, Melbourne as part of Culture Ireland’s 2016 International Programme ‘I Am Ireland’. The exhibition featured works by Duncan Campbell, Jesse Jones, Kennedy Browne and Seamus Nolan.

Other recent independent curatorial projects include Americana: Future Rural featuring John Gerrard (IE), Brian Duggan (IE), Kim Shively (USA) and M12 Studio (USA) at The Dock, Leitrim and Amharc Fhine Gall X commissioning Ella de Búrca, Ruth Clinton and Niamh Morriarty.

She has been awarded the Arts Council of Ireland’s Visual Arts Curatorial Residency award for three consecutive years (2013 – 2016) and in that time has produced a series of events and exhibitions in County Roscommon including newly commissioned works by Maria McKinney (IE) and Sean Lynch (IE); public art projects by Sean Rafferty (AUS), Ruth E. Lyons (IE) and Deirdre O’Mahony (IE), exhibitions by Martin Parr (UK), Duncan Campbell (IE) & Eamon O’Kane (IE) and a symposium titled The Workers with contributions from Adam Sutherland of Grizedale Arts (UK) & M12 Collective (USA) among others.

Shevlin is currently curator in residence with Roscommon Arts Centre & Solstice Arts Centre.


Linda Shevlin
Tivanagh School
Co. Roscommon
+353 86 605 2571
+353  71 966 4606