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

As part of the Open House Europe volunteer exchange initiative, I had the opportunity as a volunteer from Brno to visit an Open House festival in another European city. I chose Dublin, where I lived 15 years ago. This was a chance to see the city in a different light, observe the changes in the city and meet friends old and new.

I was most fascinated by the Dún Laoghaire Baths, an urban restoration project. These were built in 1843 by a private enterprise and later bought by the city council in 1896 for public use. They reopened in December 2022 after major redevelopment. Works included refurbishment of the spa pavilion, construction of a new 35m jetty with built-in seating, installation of a Roger Casement sculpture, simple changing shed, refurbished Edwardian beach garden gazebo, new footpath and amphitheatre seating. It is a multi-level space where each level fulfils a specific function.

What I like about the project is its simplicity, elegance, purity, and functionality. The main material is concrete, the surface of which varies according to use – rough or polished. The second mentioned can be found where barefoot movement or sitting is assumed. The space also thinks about wheelchair users and seniors. When ready for swimmers in the future it will have two main entrances to the water. The first is off the stairs leading down from the jetty and the second is from the lower plaza area where there are steps with railings that lead down to the tidal beach. Both entry points allow access at low tide. This arrangement also makes it easier for canoes and stand-up paddleboards to exit the Baths. In the following construction phase, a tidal pool will be added, and the social facilities of the area will also be completed. I have to bring a swimsuit on my next visit.

I was also amazed by the Clery’s Quarter and Central Plaza buildings. Thanks to the current stage of reconstruction of both buildings, we had the opportunity to see their skeleton – metal and concrete beams and columns. The bare architecture, the skeleton of the building. And it was fantastic.

Built in 1922, the historic Clerys building is now being transformed into a retail, office, hotel, and leisure destination in the heart of Dublin on O’Connell Street. History (columned facade, internal staircase, columns, ceilings with ornaments) is mixed here with modern elements. The famous Clery’s clock above the main entrance functioned and still functions as a meeting place. Even in Brno, we meet under the clock at Česká Street.

Central Plaza, Sam Stephenson’s central bank completed in 1978, has been in disrepair for years and is now getting a new coat. Already the original concept worked with visible metal elements on the facade, which help to hold the whole building together. There will also be space for shops, offices, and restaurants here. The newly built glass roof provides a panoramic view of the city, as well as the Clerys Quarter.

I love harbours, docks, ships and so a leisurely cruise through Dublin harbour and docks with Dublin Port was the obvious choice for me on Open House weekend. The rich explanation about the history, the present and the plans, together with the fresh air, were breathtaking.

I must not forget the walk I took part in around Henrietta Street with Dónal Fallon and the fascinating stories and history of the city flats and housing in Dublin.

The last place I will mention was the Royal School of Surgeons in Ireland where I learned that surgeons originally worked with barbers who performed surgical procedures. Very Sweeney Tod!



Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who designed Brno’s Villa Tugendhat said,

‘No design is possible until the materials with which you design are completely understood’

‘Architecture is a language. When you are very good, you can be a poet’

‘Architecture is the will of the age conceived in spatial terms’

 And he was right, about everything.

I had a lot of experiences in Dublin and as part of the Open House festival and it was wonderful to see how these festivals across the world are really important additions contributing to our understanding and appreciation of architecture and place. Until next time Dublin…

Author and Photographer: Marty Morrissey, Brno

Photo: Marty Morrissey


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