After 10 years of a somewhat nomadic existence, the Irish Architecture Foundation (IAF) now has headquarters, at 15 Bachelors Walk in Dublin. Nathalie Weadick, director of the IAF, feels like she has just come home.
“When the IAF was founded 10 years ago, it started with no fixed abode. We were new and we were experimental, and all we needed was a couple of laptops and a couple of staff. We started to create initiatives to communicate architecture to the public: major festivals like Open House Dublin, seasons of talks, exhibitions, Venice pavilions, architects in schools. But in time our programme – and our organisation – began to grow.”
When the building was offered through Dublin City Council’s Vacant Spaces scheme in 2014, Weadick says she went for it “like the IAF’s life depended on it”.
“That was a great day, when we found out that we would have somewhere people could come and see us and see the things that we do.”
An early 18th-century terraced house on the north quays of the Liffey, 15 Bachelors Walk was remodelled in 2010 by McCullough Mulvin Architects as a space for creative encounters. It offers the IAF office and meeting space, but the ground floor auditorium is where Nathalie sees the real potential in the building.
“The beautifully designed auditorium, with only 24 seats, so immediate from the street it is part of the city, is an extremely powerful place to address new ideas and have a discussion with a small, engaged group of people. It’s not restrictive because it’s a small space; it’s quite the opposite: this space becomes a nucleus where ideas can begin and take shape elsewhere.’
The IAF's programming has always taken shape in a variety of locations, all over Dublin, across Ireland and even around the world. In 2015 and 2016 it hosted events in London, Chicago and New York under the theme "We Built This City", examining the role Irish communities have played in the design, construction, culture and governance of some of the world's major cities.
It also engages with the international world of design and architecture through New Now Next, in collaboration with Arup, which gives a platform to Irish and international architects whose work is tapping into contemporary trends and changing our built world.
At the core of the organisation is a belief that architects are only one group of people shaping the built environment. The IAF programmes are designed to attract people of all stripes to the world of architecture, but also to help them inform and affect that world.
"The Ballyfermot Play Park is a two-year project for us and we're at the halfway point now. It was enabled by a public-private partnership between the Matheson Foundation and Dublin City Council. Our role was bringing together of the community with the design process. We didn't just create the competition to design the park, we conducted about 30 community workshops last year, which fed into the brief for the competition."
Now in planning, the Ballyfermot Play Park is a play area and skate/BMX park in Le Fanu Park that will open in 2017, designed by Relational Urbanism. It’s the first of many projects that Weadick wants to see more of in Ireland.
“It provides a real-life transformation and it will have a huge impact. And we will measure that impact, learn from it and deliver it again and again, in Dublin and beyond.”
One of the things the IAF is most looking forward to doing now that it has found its home is to take some time to get to know its new neighbourhood.
“Early next year we’ll do a show called D1, because now we live in Dublin 1. We’re going to look around us, at a neighbourhood that’s undergone huge transformation in recent years. There are some great design studios in Dublin 1, and we’ve also got a lot of really important political, social and administrative institutions here. The Custom House, Dublin Port, the history of O’Connell Street and the GPO – there are so many strongholds of society and political and cultural life in D1.”
“Before we start having more bright ideas about going to different countries in the world, let’s look at what’s on our doorstep.’
The New Now Next series returns in the autumn. The 11th annual Open House Dublin explores "The Presence of the Past" from October 14th-16th. architecturefoundation.ie