Open House Dublin: An architect’s delight

Screen Shot 2018-11-30 at 6.38.27 PMI have several blogs in my files that I’ve not yet shared. The info below is no longer “news” but it should be interesting and helpful to some, so I’m posting it for you today. Happy holidays!

The Irish Architecture Foundation (IAF) does an outstanding job organizing its annual Open House event. In 2018, they held it October 12–14. Open House spans three days and allows thousands of citizens to visit architectural wonders that are usually not accessible to the public. Over 170 tours and events were open to the public–all for free and most with architects, trained historians, or other experts as guides.

Although this happened six weeks ago, I’m posting it now since I like to have a record of what I’ve seen. I’ve attended five of these Open Houses, I believe, and you can find photos from other years by running a search for “Open House” on this site.

Despite the dreary rain on Saturday the IAF army of volunteers opened sites all across Dublin. Aongus and I benefitted, as lines were shorter. We took advantage of having Aongus’ car to stay dryer and see more sites than we could by foot. This means we visited more outlying areas than I’d originally planned. We normally walk or take Dublin Bikes.

On Sunday the sun came out, but not until after a cold wait for the opening of 14 Henrietta Street. The crowds were fierce on Sunday, and I even encountered a few grouchy folks with a sense of entitlement. I tried to cheerfully point out that the long wait times were due to the popularity and success of the event and that all the people organizing the events and running the sites were volunteering their time. That sense of entitlement is an ugly thing. Putting that aside, I really enjoyed myself and have provided photos of the seven sites I managed to visit.

Screen Shot 2018-11-30 at 5.43.27 PMBelvedere House

The first site we went to was Belvedere House, which used ot house the boys’ school that was the rival of the one Aongus attended for secondary school. The tour was full, so we actually just saw the lobby in our initial visit, but we returned later and got the tour and more photos.

The House was constructed in 1786 at 6 Denmark St Great, Dublin 1. According to the Open House website, “The construction of what is now Belvedere College began under the 1st Earl of Belvedere, and was later finished and occupied by the 2nd Earl of Belvedere. Built to the designs of architect Robert West, it features the work of renowned stuccodore Michael Stapleton. After the 2nd Earl’s death in 1814, the townhouse was left unoccupied and fell into disrepair. The house was eventually procured by the Society of Jesus Religious Order in 1841 and has since been occupied as part of their educational facility. James Joyce, Austin Clarke, Harry Clarke, Joseph Plunkett, Donagh MacDonagh and Kevin Barry are amongst some of the great past alumni who roamed the corridors and were educated here. RKD Architects were appointed in 2014 by Belvedere College to restore the 18th Century house and one of the most powerful features of the house today is the stucco work in the hall and first floor reception rooms.”

Screen Shot 2018-11-30 at 5.43.43 PMCroke Park Villas

This is a social housing community with an iconic design that was replicated in many other parts of Dublin. As it is so stylized, it seems to many people to be outdated. This particular set of Villas is being torn down and new housing built. There was a photographic exhibition in one of the flats, documenting families who used to live here. A few of the flats still have residents, who await new homes in the construction underway nearby.

The complex was designed by Daithi P. Hanley and constructed in the 1960s at Sackville Avenue, Ballybough Road, Dublin 3. Open House’s website noted that “In 1956 Dublin Corporation approved a Compulsorily Purchase Order on a series of derelict and condemned cottages in Ballybough in order to construct modern single and duplex flats between Love Lane and Sackville Avenue. Named Croke Villas due to its proximity to the GAA HQ, Croke Park, it was the first stage of an extensive plan to regenerate the Ballybough/North Strand area much of which still bore the scars of the 1941 North Strand Bombings. At present the complex is undergoing renovation and three blocks have been demolished along with a number of derelict cottages on Sackville Avenue. This new development with provide a mix of houses and duplex apartments. The flats were designed by Daithi P. Hanley when he re-joined Dublin Corporation in 1956 as housing Architect. He designed a series of 4 and 5 storey blocks of Flats which used standardised components resulting in significant savings in construction costs and building maintenance of which Croke Villas was part. There were many others of these flats built across the city. Hanley also designed the Garden of Remembrance, Simmonscourt Pavilion, the memorial monument at the Customs House, the Basilica of Our Lady, Knock, among quite a number of interesting projects.As part of Open House 2018 number 45 Croke Villas will be open to the public and will have an exhibition of photographs taken prior to and during the demolition by photographic artist Jeanette Lowe. Number 45 Croke Villas is in the last remaining block of flats, due to be demolished early in 2019. The finished development with form a processional boulevard into the Croke Park Stadium.”

Screen Shot 2018-11-30 at 5.44.38 PMAsh Street

This project was designed by de Siún Architects and constructed in 2018 at 25 Ash St., Merchants Quay, Dublin 8. Michael de Siún has shown his own home before, very near to this one, and it is an architectural gem. Such clever detailing to make small spaces feel spacious and appealing. I felt that a product Aongus and I had seen at the London Building Centre might be usefully applied to the project, and I forwarded information on it to the architectural design team by email.

The Open House website explains, “The refurbishment of no. 25 Ash St. introduces a double-height light well into a small 100 year old house. The previously tight rooms have been opened up to create a spacious continuous flow from entrance to rear garden. A feature staircase with strong vertical elements emphasizes the connection between the floors. A simple palette of oak, concrete, and brick unite the whole, culminating in an intricate brick façade to the rear of the building.”

Screen Shot 2018-11-30 at 5.44.52 PMWeaver Park

This city park was designed by Áit Urbanism + Landscape / DCC Parks & Landscape Services and constructed in 2017 on Cork St, in Dublin 8. Despite the rain, we found the park design to be fun and festive. There were even some kids besides Aongus out playing. We rounded off our day with dinner on Camden Street, at Damascus Gate.

According to the Open House website, “Weaver Park represents one of the primary objectives arising from Dublin City Council’s “The Liberties Greening Strategy”. This strategy identified a derelict site, formerly occupied by the Chamber Court Flats, which offered a significant opportunity for the provision of a landmark public amenity. In making the site available for redevelopment, Dublin City Council was responding to the campaigns of local community groups who had long seen the potential in this space. The brief given to Áit Urbanism + Landscape underlined the importance of a participative process that engaged with these local groups, so that the community’s requirements could be understood and delivered through an informed design. Weaver Park is therefore a distillation of the community’s aspirations with inclusivity at its core. The design delivers a hive of activity within a context that will be sylvanic and ecologically functional in time. The fulcrum of the park is a 40-year-old Quercus palustris; this beautiful Oak tree now provides an instant maturity and a new focal point on the Cork Street landscape. It is an icon for the greening of The Liberties.

Screen Shot 2018-11-30 at 5.46.18 PM14 Henrietta Street

This building was a stately-home-turned-tenement. From housing one wealthy family at its prime, this home eventually held a hundred people at once. I shutter to imagine.

Watching “Call the Midwife” during my subsequent writing retreat gave me a glimpse into what such urban density would have looked like. It’s an excellent series that illustrates history as well as truest loving people. So seldom can I bear to watch television, and particularly Netflix, due to its grim and gritty culture. This show, however, is a true delight despite drawing tears.

Back to the house in Dublin, though, where you can see for yourself most any day by paying an admission fee. For Open House Sunday, entry was free but the tour abbreviated. And there was a line around the block when it opened Sunday morning!

It was originally built in the 1740s at 14 Henrietta Street, Dublin 1. The renovation that has just been opened was designed by Shaffrey Architects. This work converted the house into a museum that now showcases how the spaces would have looked both at the building’s prime and high and when it was packed to the gills. The house is in eyeshot of Linenhall, where my DIT staff office is located and I had a bird’s eye view of the renovations as they progressed. I kept a keen eye as the roof was repaired, a fire stair added, and the brick on rear of the house repointed.

The Open House website provides a detailed description: “Dating from the 1720s, Henrietta Street in Dublin’s North inner city is the most intact collection of early to mid-18th Century houses in Ireland. Built as a townhouse for the elite of Dublin, 14 Henrietta Street was split into tenements in the 1880s as the need for working class housing in Dublin grew, with some 100 people living there by 1911. It remained a tenement house until the last families left in the last 1970s. It’s been a 10-year project for Dublin City Council to rescue, stabilise, conserve and adapt 14 Henrietta Street. The house is the primary artefact of a new museum – the walls, floors, banisters, old gas pipes, fireplaces, and fragments of linoleum and wallpaper have many stories to tell. Shaffrey Architects planned and created new spaces to discretely integrate essential services and fire protection, using wireless technology to minimise loss of finishes and fabric. The tours will showcase the reception, selected rooms, basement and garden area to see the connections between the old and new. This year’s winner for the RIAI Award for Conservation / Restoration and Awarded The Special Jury Award.”

Screen Shot 2018-11-30 at 5.44.10 PMNew Garda (Police) Headquarters

Designed by the Irish Office of Public Works (OPW) and built in 2017, this build graces the Corner of Kevin St and Bride St, Dublin 8. This building is in the line-of-sight from Kevin Street DIT, where I frequently teach RoboSlam workshops and the RoboSumo design project, with Ted Burke and often Damon Berry and Frank Duignan. I was delighted that one of the architects who worked on this project delivered our tour. He was quite a young lad–leading me to feel a bit aged! (Like a fine wine? Perhaps….)

The Open House website explains, “The new Kevin Street Garda Divisional Headquarters was designed by the OPW. It is designed as a civic quality building responding to the specific site context of its historic surroundings. The building is energy efficient and sustainable with universal access for all. The building is arranged in linear blocks of accommodation either side of an atrium space. It reinstates the street line along Bride Street with a five-storey building opposite the seven-storey National Archive building. The five-storey curved block steps down in a series of steps to become two storey adjacent to the former medieval Archbishops Palace, thereby responding in scale to these important historic buildings. The important Kevin Street junction is acknowledged by expressing the central atrium space on that façade. The public entrance is located at this point. The atrium serves as the main vertical and horizontal circulation space within the building and provides for natural ventilation to all offices along with natural air extraction and allows daylight to penetrate into the building.”

Screen Shot 2018-11-30 at 5.42.54 PMThe Old Richmond Surgical Hospital

Just one block from my apartment in Dublin, this stately brick building gleams with love and civic pride. Originally designed by Carroll and Batchelor 1901 and built in 1901, The Richmond was refurbished in 2016 by Kavanagh Tuite. It is located near my own flat, at No. 1 North Brunswick St, Dublin 7. This was not my first tour of the building, but I learn new things each time.

The Open House website explains, “The Richmond Education & Event Centre was opened on the 20th April 2018, following an extensive refurbishment, following its purchase by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation in 2013. The building was originally opened on the 20th April 1901 as The Richmond Surgical Hospital and remained open as a hospital until 1987, when patients from The Richmond and Jervis Street were moved to Beaumont Hospital. It after became a business centre and then a Court House for a number of years, there are still 3 cells in the basement. This red brick english renaissance style building has three floors and is U-shaped overlooking a central courtyard and fountain. It is built on the site of benedictine convent dating back to 1688. The building has meeting rooms, offices, four large former wards (auditorium, lecture room, banqueting room, victorian tea room). The tour will include the ground floor, first floor (except offices) and part of the basement.”

smc

Purchasing a Reflection

Circa 1835, Dublin, Ireland, March 2011

Circa 1835, Dublin, Ireland, March 2011

I’m posting the images from my photography show, for all of you who didn’t get to attend the opening and take a catalogue home. The title of the show is “Inter-Changes: Reflections from Dublin and Beyond” and it is on display at the O’Connell House at from 9-5 weekdays at 58 Merrion Square, in Dublin 2, from May 8-31, 2013.  I’ll be there next Monday, May 27 from 12-2 for one last “Meet the Artist” session.

If you’d like to purchase one of the works, please contact me via email at shannonchance (at) verizon (dot) net.  The images are currently selling for 80 Euros or 100 dollars each, plus shipping and handling.

The copyright for these images belongs to Shannon Chance.  If you want to use them for commercial purposes, please contact me. You may use them for personal or educational purposes as long as you cite me as the author.

My most sincere thanks to all who attended the launch of this exhibition.  You have helped make my time in Ireland memorable and worthwhile!  Thanks for reflecting on Ireland with me….

Defining the Street in Dublin and Ballsbridge

Parnell Street

Parnell Street

In my opinion, good city buildings touch each other and define the street. They don’t have to be glamorous to make good urban fabric. When building work together, they create good spaces for people to enjoy.

I’ll give two quick examples of clearly defined streets. These two streets are near my apartment in Dublin. Unfortunately, they are both designed for cars–not people.  Nevertheless, the buildings work together to define space. On Parnell Street, the buildings support a good mix of uses and are close enough together to provide the density of population needed to support ground-floor retail. Residential density is lower a few blocks away, on North King, and ground-floor business are fledgling.

North King Street -- view toward the Jameson Distillery smokestack -- where density breaks down.

North King Street — view toward the Jameson Distillery smokestack — at the point where density breaks down.

Simply put, a proper mix of residential and office space is necessary to support ground floor restaurants and retail. By providing residential as well as working space, mixed-use districts are active throughout the day. Businesses can draw customers morning, noon, and night.

Having the right mix in your district ensures you’ll be able to get the services you need without getting in a car. (Oh, that we’d build this way in the States! Walkability is so rare in cities back home.)

I was reminded of all this last Thursday, when I travelled to the Fulbright office in Ballsbridge to help interview Fulbright applicants. It’s in the outskirts of Dublin. Although this is a suburban neighborhood, it is still dense by US standards. Notice that there’s more space between buildings in Ballsbridge than in Dublin city center, but that there’s still a good mix of uses/services. Nevertheless, some buildings contribute much more to the life of the street than others!