Moving Machairs: Standing Stones and Shifting Shells
Moving Machairs explores the intersection of cultural, political and environmental issues at play on the machair of South Uist, an island threatened by rising sea levels and coastal erosion.
- Community and Culture
- Green Infrastructure
- Parks and Gardens
- History and Heritage
The machair, an ecosystem unique to the western isles of Scotland and west coast of Ireland, is a barrier, a buffer against and gentle embrace of Atlantic waves. It is a land made by two makers, elemental and human. An otherwise-wet desert is brought to life by the cutting of soil by crofters, the pouching of grasses by hoofs which makes space for birds to nest, and the surges of wind which blow sand onto the flat plain. The crofters lay out kelp from the shore to give it nutrients, and harvest seaweed from the shore, but the machair is finite and fragile. The dunes that protect it move, and coastal erosion and sea level rise hastened by climate change has left this territory under threat. As the machair is pushed back, the land which gives its community meaning and sustenance is reclaimed by the sea.
The machair of South Uist, where crofting is still commonplace, is owned by the local community. Moving Machairs proposes a series of programmes for this community that engage with the fragility of the machair, questioning how land management and island culture can adapt whilst threatened by rising sea levels and the eventual disappearance of resources. Moving Machairs is operates as a series of spaces where people can work, gather and debate, unpacked along the line of a croft plot, forming spaces where community ownership is practiced. A crofting diversification centre, a facility for the land management group ‘Storas Uibhist’ with workspace for visiting ecologists, a forum for discussions on coastal land management, an archive and rooms for the custodian of the machair engage with the shells, sands and subsurface of the machair. An elevated, occupied boardwalk connects these programmes, measuring and making visible the movement of the machair over time.