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What If Dublin Had More Benches?

If you follow us on Twitter you’ll probably have heard us ask: what if Dublin? What If Dublin re-engaged with its disused spaces? What if Dublin engaged with its many vacant sites within the city? What if Dublin used the Liffey for other than just traffic?

These are some of the questions being posed by What If Dublin, a Twitter-based web platform which invites the public to participate in a debate on our city. In collaboration with IAF they have been invited participate in St Patrick’s Festival Ireland as part of the ‪#‎ILoveMyCity programme from 14 to 17 March, supported by Irish Design 2015. With five installations, five locations, four days and one city they hope to engage the public in a conversation about the potential of the city.

What If Dublin are a small collective of young architects, designers and urban researchers. They started What If Dublin to stay engaged with what is happening in the city. “We have always been passionate about Dublin and the latent potential the city has but never had a forum to open these ideas up to wider discussion,” one of the group told us. They felt there was a lack of discussion in planning processes in Dublin and they saw the opportunity to use Twitter as a space to start a dialogue.

They are an anonymous group, so will remain unnamed, as they want to let the images and ideas they propose speak for themselves. In their own words, “as ‘facilitators’ or ‘animators’ we try not to impose our own opinion but to ask open questions, connect and learn from others”

They were originally a trio and there are now four people involved in What If Dublin. It is an evolving group and they hope to grow to include people from other professions, with other ideas and points of reference. They also hope to hook up with similar groups across Ireland in other cities. What If Dublin are working on a website and are looking into possibilities of how to transform the positive energy and feedback that they are receiving into something physical and meaningful. They believe that the citizens of Dublin can have a real say in the future of the city.

What If Dublin’s first physical project is the collaboration with IAF which will form part of St Patrick’s Festival Ireland’s #ILoveMyCity programme, supported by Irish Design 2015. Five city centre locations have been selected: Kevin Street, Moore Street, Liffey North Quays, Smithfield Fruit and Vegetable Market and Abbey Street. All spaces they consider full of potential, “they are either important to Dublin’s development due to their size, location and history (Smithfield, Moore Street, Liffey North Quays) or due to their exemplary character (Kevin Street, Abbey Street). Some of the sites are currently in the process of being transformed, for some the battle isn’t fought yet.”

From 14 to 17 March five steel benches with acrylic sheets mounted onto them will be at the five sites. The acrylic screens will display the group’s proposed futures for the five sites. “These visualisations are viewed through a transparent acrylic screen and graft our proposals onto the existing [site] so, in a sense, we are bringing the imagined and virtual closer to the existing and real.”

This visualisation works by viewing the site from a certain distance and angle through the acrylic screen and the benches are strategically placed to see the proposed images on top of the existing site. The passersby can have a sit, have a look and come up with their own ideas. In this way they will engage with a part of their city that they might have passed daily, but never really considered as a space with potential for so much more.

So now it’s your turn, Tweet photos of yourselves on the benches, make suggestions for the city or engage in the ongoing debate. We have a prize up for grabs! The most impressive tweet with the hashtag #WhatIfDublin will win a choice of one of our members tours.

Upcoming tours include a family tour of Merrion Square, a trip down to Open House Cork, a tour of 9/9 A Aungier Street and a tour of St Mary’s Pro Cathedral and Vaults. See our website for more details.

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