Open House Vilnius – Perspectives from Dublin - Open House Dublin 2024
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Open House Vilnius – 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 Rory Mahon about his experience volunteering at Open House Vilnius.


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

I have been interested in built heritage and history for many years. These interests led me to volunteer with Open House Dublin for the last 3 years. This has given me the opportunity to work in a variety of interesting buildings across Dublin. As I have also recently trained as a tour guide, I thought that the volunteer exchange would be an ideal opportunity to combine my interests and training and contribute to an Open House programme in another country.

Seeing unfamiliar buildings for the first time can give a fresh perspective, which is beneficial to guides and attendees alike.

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

It was obvious that the Open House concept was well embedded in Vilnius. This was their 10th year, and there were over 500 volunteers. You could spot them all over the city, which gave the festival a presence.

Because many events were taking place around the city centre, volunteers were able to interact with each other at various stages during the day. This definitely helped us feel part of something.

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

Because I have had quite a bit of experience with Open House and tour guiding generally, I felt well equipped to guide in unfamiliar surroundings. My previous Open House experiences were invaluable, as they gave me a better idea of what to expect when dealing with the public and sharing information.


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

Vilnius is an old city, with influences evident in the built heritage from whoever was the ruling power at any given time. Because you can see evidence of Russian, Polish and German architecture as well as Scandinavian styles, you can appreciate that architecture is influenced by the context of the period during which it was constructed.

Combining new architecture in an old city without damaging the character of the location remains a challenge.

Any advice for those applying for the exchange next year?

Be as well prepared as possible about the history of the place you are visiting because any content you will provide will have a context that you may not appreciate.

Most attendees do not want an architecture lesson. The building and its features need to be explained, but people also want to be entertained and go away having enjoyed the experience.

Promote the festival, not just your event. Encourage attendees to go to other sites, and know where these are.



  1. (Right) Open House Vilnius at the Lithuanian Composers Union. Photo by Rory Mahon.
  2. Vilnius Palace Of Culture, Entertainment And Sports. Photo by Rory Mahon.
  3. National Mk Čiurlionis School Of Arts. Photo by Rory Mahon.
  4. Open House Vilnius at the Cultural Heritage Centre. Photo by Rory Mahon.
  5. Open House Vilnius at the Lithuanian National Philharmonic Society. Photo by Rory Mahon.
View from across the street of people queuing to enter a grand 4-storey sandstone building with an ornately decorated facade. Open House Vilnius at the Lithuanian National Philharmonic Society. Photo by Rory Mahon.


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