Open House Prague – Perspectives from Dublin - Open House Dublin 2024
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Open House Prague – 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 Laura Heskin about her experience volunteering at Open House Prague.

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

As a second-year architecture student, I found my experience volunteering with Open House Dublin last year extremely insightful. I enjoyed learning about the open buildings throughout the week and speaking with the architects of the projects. I also valued speaking with the public who visited the houses that I was assigned to and learned a lot from the entire experience. I took a strong liking to the renovation and development of pre-existing buildings that were on show, especially those that maintained the character of the original building. I hoped that participating in the exchange programme would give me an insight into how construction and design can differentiate between Ireland and other European cities. Aside from engaging in the programme to assist with my studies, I was also interested in learning about the history of historic buildings in Prague and bringing my own knowledge of architecture to other volunteers and to visitors of the Open House programme.

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

Having an understanding of how Open House Dublin is run throughout the weekend was useful in preparing me for the exchange. Understanding the different roles that people take on throughout the trip allowed me to appreciate everything more. I was impressed by the research that volunteers put into their buildings and their ability to answer any questions on the building. In my experience with Open House Dublin I have been a steward, so getting more of an insight into how volunteers go about being a tour guide was very interesting.

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

Definitely I learnt that the history and cultural context of a city has a major influence on the buildings that are built there over time and the emphasis placed on architecture. Over the course of the weekend, I saw a large variety of architectural styles and was amazed by the detailing behind some designs. I was extremely taken by one particular project which I visited in my spare time: the renovation of the offices for Czech Promotion communications company by KURZ Architects. Their emphasis on sustainability and the client being at the heart of any design was extremely inspiring to me. After speaking with the architect at the end of the tour, I began thinking of architectural design with a slightly different approach.

Any advice for those applying for the exchange next year?

My biggest piece of advice is to embrace every second of it! I was lucky to have had an amazing tour guide throughout the weekend showing us incredible pieces of architecture in the city of Prague. However, I would recommend doing some research of your own in advance of going to see if there are any particular buildings that you would like to see when you visit. The time flies by! So knowing which buildings you might like to look at is super important for being efficient with your time.

 

Photos:

  1. (Right) Open House Prague volunteers at Strahov, Prague 6, Czechia (Laura Heskin second from right).
  2. Open House Prague volunteers (Laura Heskin back row centre) with Palác ARA in the background. Photo by an OHP volunteer.
  3. Laichterův dům, Vinohrady, Czechia. Photo by Laura Heskin.
  4. Prague Congress Centre, Czechia. Photo by Laura Heskin.
  5. Czech Promotion Offices by KURZ Architects, Karlín, Czechia. Photo by Laura Heskin.
Six Open House Prague volunteers in their blue festival t-shirts at Strahov, Prague 6, Czechia (Laura Heskin second from right). Six Open House Prague volunteers at Strahov, Prague 6, Czechia (Laura Heskin second from right).

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