Open House Dublin: Finding new ways to unlock the city’s architectural riches
To plan this year’s festival in a pandemic, the organisers had to think outside the usual spaces
At the launch of Open House Dublin 2020 were Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan, Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu, Open House Dublin manager Karen Lee Walpole and Irish Architecture Foundation chair Brian Moran. Photograph: Marc O’Sullivan
When the first lockdown descended last spring, Irish Architecture Foundation (IAF) director Nathalie Weadick and her team would normally have been gearing up for the foundation’s big annual event, Open House, but suddenly they were faced with a dilemma. How do you approach a weekend of gathering people together and bringing thousands of people through houses and other buildings, during a pandemic? “How do we do a project that is about space in the city, that is the antithesis of the restrictions?” asks Weadick.
IAF and its flagship Open House Dublin (OHD) annual architecture festival are marking 15 years celebrating great architecture and urban design, and the people whohave created built Dublin. In a normal October the festival is a hugely popular weekend every year packed with seminars, private and public building tours, open houses and events.
OHD found itself in the same Covid-19 basket as its 48 sibling Open Houses all over the world. A giant Zoom meeting in May, sharing ideas and approaches, was, says Weadick, comforting and collegial but also extremely useful. Plus, their usual partners, DCC, DLR and OPW, tons of architects, and OHD’s corporate and public funders, all rallied around, offering help and resources.
And so it’s come to pass that in a pandemic year when we’ve all rediscovered our communities and neighbourhoods, and the positives and limitations of our own homes, Open House Dublin is managing to showcase the “Extraordinary Ordinary” in Irish design and architecture in a substantial free programme next weekend.
While OHD has had to cancel the limited physical indoor events they’d planned, Weadick says “we were always aware they might have to go”, and instead the main focus was outside that. OHD’s Big Project this year is a series of newly commissioned documentary shorts, plus there are outdoor walking tours, a selection of virtual architecture tours, and a family programme. It kicks off on October 8th with the popular annual Big Debate being live-streamed.
Weadick is very excited about Site Specific, the series of 10 films the IAF commissioned from Dyehouse Films. The documentary shorts of around five minutes each range from internationally renowned Irish architects Shelley McNamara, Yvonne Farrell and Grainne Shaffrey on their plan for Parnell Library, to Rosemount Court social housing in Dún Laoghaire to Niall McCullough’s Dublin flyover.
Weadick was adamant the video segments would not be a version of estate agents’ virtual house tours, and the hybrid storytelling project is “about engagement, the public meeting the building, and the creator of the building, through the medium of film”.
We need a big reset in how Dublin functions. The city is on its knees, and Covid has uncovered communities and systems already under pressure
The rushes are coming in as we speak and she’s delighted with the work done by David O’Sullivan and Bonnie Dempsey of Dyehouse. “It’s a snapshot of time, movement and place. You get to see the buildings up close and from drone, and hear from people who have designed them or who use them and who love them.”
The livestreamed Big Debate, titled Dublin’s Fair City? – the public can register to attend, and pose questions – will be about how fair the city really is, not just physically, but socially and environmentally, looking at the role of architecture in addressing societal inequalities, and will be influenced by what we can learn from the pandemic.
“We can see the city has changed, but we need a big reset in how Dublin functions. The city is on its knees, and Covid has uncovered communities and systems already under pressure,” says Weadick, who hopes the debate will be provocative, “an instrument to move the action”.
There will also be a large progamme of actual walking tours, and a video series On Site With . . . architects and others.
Weadick says the pandemic virtual meeting was also the inspiration for a worldwide virtual festival of architecture that will take place on November 15th, with all 48 Open House cities contributing; OHD will host a youth debate about climate change.
While Weadick muses now on how long it will be before people will be happy to have others tour their homes again, her enthusiasm is infectious about next weekend and OHD’s Extraordinary Ordinary year in 2020.
PLAN THE DIARY
Film premiere Friday October 9th of 10 five-minute documentary shorts: spaces and places filmed up close, with commentary by an architect, historian or user. View online, and projected in Meeting House Square on loop over the weekend. Films include: Rosemount Court Dún Laoghaire social housing with architects Andrew Devonport and Sarah Clifford; Craft and ornament of Chapel Royal Dublin Castle, designed by Francis Johnston in 1814; Temple Bar with Frank McDonald; St Teresa Church and Priory with architect Niall McLaughlin and Fr Nicholas ; Play Park Ballyfermot, where the BMX bikers worked with the architects; Loos Bar in TCD’s common room, designed by De Blacam and Meagher in 1984; Dolphin House’s community action, with DCC architect Stefan Lowe; Niall McCullough’s Dublin flyover linking plots and roofs, looking at three buildings – Temple Bar Gallery, Oisín House and TCD Dental Hospital; The vision for City Library on Parnell Square to transform the Georgian buildings in disrepair into a contemporary library. And Poolbeg (“a surprise film”).
Dublin’s Fair City?
Topical debate with Lord Mayor of Dublin Cllr Hazel Chu, disability activist Sinéad Burke, Dublin City Architect Ali Grehan, director of Irish Council for Civil Liberties Liam Herrick; Jennifer McElwain of the School of Natural Sciences TCD and Andrée Dargan, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Architect. Chaired by Philip Crowe from Space Engagers. Livestreamed at 6.30pm on October 8th.
On Site With
Digital tours peeking into homes “home-made” by architects including Clancy Moore, TAKA, Ryan Kennihan. Online from Friday October 9th. Including a small terrace of 1990s mews by Cian Deegan and Alice Casey from TAKA, converting unused garage space into a kitchen and refurbishing the ground floor; Ryan Kennihan extension and renovation for a family in Phibsborough, crafted using natural materials and clever use of light; and virtual tour by Culligan Architects of a house, coachhouse and garden to the rear of Prince Edward Terrace Lower in Blackrock.
R ecrafting Parliament
short film showcasing an attempt to recreate Dublin’s lost 18th-century House of Commons (currently the Bank of Ireland HQ), part of TCD History of Art and Architecture research on craftsmanship.
Outdoor tours (Booking required)
DLR’s New Seaside Cycle Way – bike tour led by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown senior architect Bob Hannan, exploring the council’s response to Covid-19, rethinking everyday surroundings, green spaces, homes, working environments and places of social interaction. Sunday October 11th.
West of Capel Street with Dublin Decoded’s Arran Henderson, exploring the built heritage from the City Quays to Henrietta Street. Sunday October 11th.
Dublin Port Boat Tour: view the progress of the Alexandra Basin Redevelopment Project Masterplan 2012-2040. Saturday October 10th.
Walking tour of social housing on Ballybough Road, Dublin 3, late Georgian in disrepair, refurbished in 2019. Sunday October 11th
Airfield Farm and Estate in Dundrum, 38-acre farm and estate with pastureland, woodland and walled gardens renovated by Solearth Architecture in 2013. Sunday October 11th
Junior Open House includes zoom workshops with IMMA, Fighting Words, Hugh Lane and Chester Beatty.
Open House Dublin runs October 8th-11th. All events free. Physical events, adhering to public health guidelines, require advance booking.