What is special about your role with the IAF?
In my role, I get to meet and work with inspiring people around Ireland who are committed to the wellbeing of their communities. It is a privilege to be able to be part of their story, and to do our bit to help them along the way. What is truly special is seeing the creative sparks fly when this dedication to community meets the skills, insight and ideas of our architects, who share this commitment to building attractive and enjoyable places to live, work and play.
Has working with the IAF changed how you personally view architecture?
I have an even bigger grá for the humble triumphs of our everyday architecture. As someone who had a huge interest in architecture growing up, I never saw any celebration of the places us regular folk lived in. The neglect of this can make so much of our architectural treasures invisible, but also we even internalise a sense that they are less important than other styles and types of architecture. The IAF has shown such respect and genuine interest in all types of architecture, that it has really buoyed my feelings and shaped how I look at housing architecture in Ireland, including the Herbert Simms house I lived in and my Granny’s cosy Parnellite cottage.
Name your favourite building in Dublin and why?
Sean O’Casey Community Centre, by O’Donnell + Tuomey Architects. My first experience of this building was by arriving at it, late for a meeting, and being paused with awe.. Community centres like this can often be under-resourced and ill-designed for the many important functions they perform, kept going by the ingenuity, hard work and endless fundraising of the users. This building is so well considered for many uses, feels really good to be in, and most importantly, is really really enjoyable to look at. Those circles, punched in a joyous pattern along the walls create a visual treat in the skyline, while also allowing wonderful round snapshots of the neighbourhood from the inside. There is such good humour in the design, supporting and reflecting out to the world the life and vibrancy in the goings on of the community centre.
If you were “in charge” of Dublin city what would you build first and why?
I would deliver a city-wide scheme of design-focused outdoor social amenities in all our public spaces, focusing on extending our lives outdoors. Warming huts for walkers and swimmers, pavilions for music, but also sheltered dance classes and group activities, fire-pits to reclaim our social bonfire traditions and BBQ pits for birthdays and first holy communions and long days at the beach. We have learned from COVID that we can make better use of our public spaces, and these could be truly beautiful and welcoming spaces for people to gather, be outdoors and be connected, especially in the winter and evenings.
Do you have a favourite moment of any of the IAF’s past Open House festivals?
Plastic House by Architecture Republic, perhaps in 2010? It cracked open a new part of my brain in terms of materials and space. I also think I am selecting it as viewing that house felt like a packed house party, it’s hard to believe that those times existed.
Tell us your top pick for Open House Festival 2021…
Reimagine Marshalsea Barracks – a unique opportunity to have a peek at a building that’s been hidden in plain sight for years, in the heart of the Liberties.
Image right: Photo by Bernardine Carroll.