Open House Brno – Perspectives from Dublin - Open House Dublin 2024
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Open House Brno – Perspectives from Dublin

In May 2024, the Irish Architecture Foundation sent three experienced Open House Dublin volunteers on exchange to sister festivals in the Open House Europe network.

Here we ask Anne Gormley about her experience volunteering at Open House Brno.

What attracted you to the Open House Europe Volunteer Exchange? Why did you want to participate? 

I loved the atmosphere in Open House Dublin when I volunteered and really enjoyed the experience of meeting so many different personalities. The exposure to a variety of architectural styles and structures was hugely enriching for me. I find that the people who engage in Open House activities – from organisers to volunteers to participants – tend to like culture, heritage and history, and these are things that I am now beginning to treasure much more in my life.

What did you enjoy the most about volunteering with Open House Brno? Did one or two things really stand out?

The team who organized Open House Brno were super people: very generous, cheerful, and welcoming, even though they were clearly run off their feet with so much organisation and work.

The city itself is an undiscovered country and a hidden treasure at the heart of Eastern Europe, totally unspoilt, with very open and friendly people. Even though I couldn’t speak the language I felt I understood them very much.  

How did volunteering with Open House Dublin prepare you for the exchange?

Open House Dublin for me was about loving different styles of buildings and helping many people navigate them in an easy and accessible manner. And this was an integral part of the weekend in Brno also, even though it was carried out in another language and culture. 

Having worked in Dublin with a group of volunteers who came from different backgrounds, when I arrived in Brno, I had previous experience of dealing with all types of people. 

There was little difference between Open House Dublin and Open House Brno except the language. The motivation of all people involved was the same.

Did you develop any new skills or ways of thinking about architecture during the exchange?

Yes, I learned a lot from having to give a guided tour of two of the most prestigious villas in Brno: Villa Reissig and Offerman Villa. Before I arrived in Brno, I had learned a bit about the history of the Czech Republic. This was hugely empowering because it helped me better  understand the people and their history and past struggles, especially under German rule during WWII. 

From studying the works of Leopold Bauer, I was inspired by how innovative he was. In 1901-2 he managed to use the English model of the suburban villa to produce extraordinary constructions in villas that were fully equipped with electric light, gas, central heating and even a dumb waiter!

It is not surprising that Villa Reissig in Brno was labelled the ‘First Modern residential house in the monarchy in Austria’, not so much for its aesthetic elements as for its functional qualities and technical standards. 

Any advice for those applying for the exchange next year?

It’s worth visiting the festival’s website in advance. The Open House Brno website is very helpful as it gives an account of the buildings that feature (and featured) in the festival over the last 7 years and can be a rich source of information on the type of architecture and structures that you will encounter during the few days. 

For me to arrive as early as I could was hugely helpful as it enabled me to access the facilities around the city better and manage public transport and the geography of the place. It was tempting to spend a few hours sight seeing in Vienna on the way, but I needed all the time I had to savour the richness of the whole Open House Brno experience.

Just enjoy it and try to research a bit about the country or city beforehand and know how to use Google Maps so you can navigate the area more easily.

 

Photos:

  1. (Right) International team on walking tour (Anne Gormley second from right).
  2. First meeting with Open House Brno organiser Lucy, volunteer Starh, and organiser Martin at St Anne’s Hospital (Anne Gormley second from left).
  3. Open House Brno volunteers bonding.
  4. Open House Brno volunteers in a medieval square.
  5. Anne Gormley in a Vienna train station on the way to Brno.
Festival volunteers standing and crouching around and in a sculpture that spells out BRNO in white letters as tall as a person. The letters are at the edge of a paved square, in front of a pale exterior wall with three narrow windows above the sculpture and small square windows just above the ground. International team on walking tour (Anne Gormley second from right).

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