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2020 Programme, Curatorial Events, Exhibition, Film

Site Specific

A special commission of eleven short documentaries for Open House Dublin 2020.

A special collection of short documentaries that celebrate the architecture of Dublin, commissioned by the Irish Architecture Foundation and produced by Dyehouse Films. The series reveals the personalities, processes, complexity, creativity and transformative impact that surround the act of designed space. The protagonists: the architect, the historian, the user, speak directly to the camera – they speak directly to us. Site Specific crosses the city, scales and building types from a play park to a hidden bar on a university campus, from social housing and a place of worship to a much-loved icon of Dublin city.

Open House Dublin is made possible by the generous support of our funders, partners, sponsors and corporate circle. The IAF is principally funded by the Arts Council and further funded by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the OPW, which enables us to deliver projects like Open House Dublin. We would like to sincerely thank all of our supporters.


Poolbeg Chimneys
A charming and personal account of the impact and significance of the two distinctive red and white chimneys, the Poolbeg Towers, from architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, architectural historian Ellen Rowley, Dublin City Architect Ali Grehan, architect and writer Niall McCullough, conservation architect Grainne Shaffrey and architectural photographer Fionn McCann. There is something about this landmark that is distinctively Dublin. Duration: 05:54


St. Teresa’s Priory
The film opens with architect Niall McLaughlin speaking to camera about his considered approach to the design of an oak lined Prayer Room inside the existing St. Theresa’s Priory, Clarendon Street, Dublin, whose chapel dates back to 1797. Father Nicholas speaks about prayer being at the heart of life for the Carmelite Friars. As you watch the friars use the space you can see how this room is conducive to collective prayer and their purpose. Duration: 05:29.


Dolphin House
Part-new and part-refurbishment, Dublin City Council architect Stefan Lowe talks about how the active community was an essential agent in this significant and urgent development by Dublin City Council of a 1957 social housing complex in Dolphins Barn. It is Dublin’s largest remaining public housing flat complex. The result repositions the homes to address the site as it opens up to the canal as well as the needs of its inhabitants. Duration: 04:39.


Loos Bar
Hidden in the common room on Trinity College campus is a bar, inaccessible to the public, designed by deBlacam and Meagher in 1984. Modelled on the American Bar by Adolf Loos from 1907 in Vienna, this icon of classic modernity is reproduced as a mirror copy. Shane deBlacam, known as the godfather of Irish architecture, takes us through the story of how this became an offshoot to their refurbishment of the Dining Hall (Richard Castle, 1741) after its near destruction following a fire in 1984. Duration: 07:09.


Ballyfermot Play Park
Four years ago Ballyfermot Youth Services, the Irish Architecture Foundation and Dublin City Council initiated a collaboration which resulted in a BMX park to beat all BMX parks. Driven by a community-centred design process, the park was the vision of the local young bikers. Here they tell their story with pride – how they guided this project for years, presenting to the council and advising the designers (a London design team called Relational Urbanism). An incredible journey of passion, design and community. Duration: 04:51.


Chapel Royal
This document of the Chapel Royal in Dublin Castle is a visual feast of pomp and ceremony. Dr Myles Campbell from Collections, Research and Interpretation at the Office of Public Works vividly and engagingly conveys the impact and importance of this building by Francis Johnston from 1814. The interior is an exemplar of Dublin stuccodores’ craft, and presents us with a wonderful theatrical impression. Duration: 06:04.


Temple Bar
With Frank McDonald, author, architectural critic and former Irish Times Environment Correspondent. As a long-time resident of Temple Bar, Frank shares his personal relationship with a quarter of the city famed for its history, culture and controversy. Hear about its medieval lanes, its early ’90s transformation thanks to the Group 91 architects and the recent developments and current challenges from those who have lived and worked in the area. Duration: 6:45.


Rosemount Court
The documentary features a social housing project in Dun Laoghaire. Architects Andrew Devonport, former Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown architect, now working for the Office of Public Works and Sarah Clifford, architect with Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown explain the vision and the passion behind creating a new place and identity for a community. All the houses are built to high environmental standards in keeping with an ethos of providing bright, spacious and comfortable homes, with people and families in mind. Duration: 04:16.


Parnell Square
The new City Library on Parnell Square will be a meeting place for both people and ideas. Yet to be built, here you will see inside the Coláiste Mhuire site, six Georgian buildings from number 23 to number 28 Parnell Square, as they are now in a state of disrepair. Pritzker Prize Laureates Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, together with their collaborator, conservation architect Grainne Shaffrey, reveal the potential of these spaces as they plan to transform them into a place for people to read, to listen, to watch, to play, to research and to think. The documentary also features the vision behind the commission from Dublin City Architect Ali Grehan and Dublin City Librarian Mairead Owens. Architectural historian Christine Casey tells us about the significance of the former life of Parnell Square as the Pleasure Gardens in 1753, soon to be the new contemporary cultural epicentre in Dublin’s historic north side. Duration: 06:25


Aerial Dublin
In a fascinating flyover of Dublin we look at three buildings by McCullough Mulvin Architects, from a bird’s eye view. Niall McCullough reveals the shape of the south city centre through its roofscape, as the camera moves across Temple Bar Galleries, Trinity College, Pearse St and the Dental Hospital on Lincoln Place. A new perspective of the city and McCullough Mulvin’s buildings within it. Duration: 06:23.


Recovering Space: Thoughts on a post-pandemic city
A final addition to the Site Specific film series which underlines the purpose of architecture and the agency of architects. ‘Recovering Space: Thoughts on a post-pandemic city’, illustrates powerfully the values of the IAF as we advocate for a better-built world. This bonus addition to our Site Specific series is about the purpose of architecture and the agency of architects, featuring Shelley McNamara, Yvonne Farrell, Niall McLaughlin, Ali Grehan, Niall McCullough, and more.

Irish Architecture Foundation 2020 © Produced by Dyehouse Films
Opinions expressed are the contributors’ alone and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Irish Architecture Foundation or Dyehouse Films.

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A still from Dolphin House, one of the Site Specific short films, which focuses on the refurbishment of a social housing complex in Dublin. The image focuses on the dark brown brick flats.
Close up photograph of stone carving of St Patrick on exterior of Chapel Royal, Dublin Castle

Close up photograph of stone carving of St Patrick on exterior of Chapel Royal, Dublin Castle Close up photograph of stone carving of St Patrick on exterior of Chapel Royal, Dublin Castle