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November 15, 2010

Dublin House, November 18th

logo_dublincityThe Dublin House idea explores and promotes the potential of small-scale residential development in inner city and inner suburban areas. It is aimed at people who want to create a home for themselves and their children in the city.

For Dublin Innovation Week 2009, Dublin City Architect, Ali Grehan, in association with UCD School of Architecture’s ‘Now What’ group, ran a one day architectural competition to look for ideas for a “˜Dublin House’, a new type of residential building that would be viable for individual infill sites or as building units that would fit together for infill development on larger urban sites. The competition looked for design solutions that would address quality and liveability and were sensitive to the historic fabric of the city, that would address the poor design quality of many infill schemes, the loss of appropriate scale and grain when plots are accumulated for large development and the lack of choice in the design of apartment homes in cities.

What DCC want to do now is to identify whether there is an interest and capacity among individuals or groups of friends/people coming together with a mutual interest in building a small development of 2 to 6 residential units for themselves to live in. The recent monopoly of housing construction by large scale developers has shown up the weakness of people buying their homes as ‘products off the shelf’ or as short term investments to be traded up within a few years. In 1930s and 1940s many small terraces of houses in Dublin were built on a very small scale – a person who owned or acquired a piece of land would build 6 or 7 homes, live in one himself and sell the others. Georgian Dublin was also built this way – plots capable of accommodating one house were sold to individuals who built on their plot to a broad set of design rules, which is how the “random” uniformity of the Georgian terraces was achieved. The recent way the market has provided housing and apartments in particular, removes people from the process of design. Creative outlets and individual input is confined to choices about floor and wall treatment.

Dublin House takes the concept of engaging with future residents of housing – an area which DCC has developed in its regeneration projects – on to the next stage. ‘Dublin House’ will appeal to people who like the idea of living in the city and want to be able to bring their own ideas and creativity to their homes. In traditional housing this need can be met by extensions, adaptations and attic conversions all impossible in an apartment scheme unless somehow people can become involved in the design of apartments from an early stage including choosing their site.

The spaces which the Council are interested promoting for Dublin House are on existing streets where new housing needs to complement existing streetscapes. While in limited cases, the plots might be small enough to warrant one terraced home, with most sites the obvious solution for each plot will be a small apartment block. Also, while Dublin House participants can learn from the small scale house builders of the past and from the Georgians they need to apply modern planning rules and understand that a greater degree of co-operation and co-ordination is required in apartment developments. Dublin House developments would be guided by a framework design for the front elevation. This would set out heights, proportions and possible palettes of materials to ensure a co-ordinated approach to the appearance of different blocks from the street.

The 2009 competition winners – GKMP Architects and DIT student group ‘Moniker’ – were invited by DCC to produce a brochure, which develops and explains the ‘Dublin House’ idea. As part of Innovation Week 2010, Dublin City Council are holding an open meeting on the 18th November 2010, 5.30pm to 7.30pm, in its new Wood Quay Venue under the Civic Offices and are inviting people with an interest in hearing more to come along and get involved in exploring whether this idea can be made to work.

The seminar will be in two parts. Session 1 will describe the Dublin House idea and look at two examples of single plot apartment developments. Session 2 will examine implementation issues. Seating will be arranged around tables to facilitate and encourage group discussion. Doors open at 5.30pm. Presentations will start at 5.40pm. All welcome.

Participants include Denis Byrne; Gerry Cahill; Elizabeth Gaynor of DIT; Evelyn Hanlon and Nikki Matthews of Dublin City Council; Michael Pike of gkmp architects; and Derek Tynan.