Monday 11 December 2017

Beyond the hall door: Open House Dublin festival guide

From a Martello tower to a bio-dome, we outline the top buildings to visit during the Open House Dublin festival

Martello Tower, Dublin
Martello Tower, Dublin
Nun's lane, Killester
9 Aungier Street
Apartments in the old National Irish Bank building on College Green
The Daintree building Dublin 2
Air BnB HQ Ringsend, Dublin
Grow Dome Project, Rialto
Spirituality centre, Holy Faith convent, Glasnevin
Air Bnb HQ
Trinity College Graduate memorial building

Emily Westbrooks

If you enjoy a good ol' snoop inside homes and buildings that are typically off limits, then mark your diaries. Open House Dublin, the city's weekend celebration of architecture organised by the Irish Architecture Foundation (IAF), celebrates its tenth year next weekend.

Open House offers access to 86 buildings across the capital, over half of which are residential properties. The programme also includes 35 Open House Plus events - such as walking tours, exhibitions and discussions - and 10 Open House Junior events scheduled for the budding architects among us.

"With development taking place again, now is a good time for the IAF and Open House Dublin to really engage with the current state of building up the city and the many issues facing it and facing those who live here," says the event curator Michael Hayes. "That's why we've taken on the topic of housing, under the title This Place We Call Home."

Whether you know your apse from your architrave or simply like to look at how others live, Open House Dublin offers something for everyone. Here, we look at the 10 best properties to visit:

1 Best for: A room with a view

Bartra Martello Tower, Bartra Rock, Harbour Road, Dalkey, Co Dublin

No matter what age you are, Martello towers have the power to inspire instant daydreams of defending our land from Napoleonic armies. With their tiny windows and thick stone walls, Martello towers aren't exactly an obvious choice for a residential space, but the Bartra Martello tower will turn that assumption around. Built in 1804, the former garrison on the Dalkey coast has been carefully restored into a cosy 21st-century home, proving that with some thought and creativity, we can reuse almost any building. And if you aren't sold on the stone interior, the 360 degree views from the wooden roof deck are sure to win you over.

2 Best for: The Environmentalist

Daintree Building, 62 Pleasants Place, off Camden Street, Dublin 2

Few of us realise when we're sitting down for a slice of cáca milis at the Cake Café in the back courtyard of the Daintree Building that the space itself is one of the most environmentally-friendly in the city. Nearly 10 years ago, Solearth Ecological Architecture designed the multi-storey timber structure to include green roofs, 'breathing' walls with sheep's wool insulation, solar thermal panels and rainwater collection.

3 Best for: History buffs

9/9A Aungier Street, Dublin 2

This building may not look like much from its 1940s era facade, but walk through the front doors and you'll be standing in what is considered to be the oldest, most intact domestic building in the city - parts of which date back over 350 years. It entered the Open House Dublin programme last year and proved to be one of the most popular - you'll want to turn up early so you don't miss out.

"The building is currently in the early phases of restoration, allowing visitors to see original architectural details dating back to Medieval times," says Michael Hayes.

4 Best for: Gardeners

Grow Dome Project, Reuben Street Gate, Reuben Street, Rialto, Dublin 8

A geodesic dome isn't the first thing you'd imagine when you think of Rialto, but the Grow Dome Project is trying to change that. A community-led project, the dome includes space and infrastructure to grow vegetables year-round, an off-grid hydroponic growing system, upcycled decking made from disused pallets, and a rainwater collection system, making the Dublin 8 structure the best spot for those visitors with green fingers.

5 Best for: Nosy neighbours

The Nest House, 26 Leinster Avenue, North Strand, Dublin 3

This year's Open House Dublin theme, This Place We Call Home, means we get a peek into even more residential properties than ever before, which is great news for the nosiest among us. Be sure to check out the Nest House in East Wall, designed by architect Maxim Laroussi, where the unassuming terraced facade belies the innovation hiding beyond the door. Gone are the traditional rooms we're used to, and in their place, the Nest House has areas designed for sleeping, conversation, cooking and dining all situated on a grid and delineated by roof lights allowing natural light to pour in. Sceptical as to how that could work? Here's your chance to stop by for a peek.

6 Best for: Cool kids

Airbnb HQ, The Watermarque Building, South Lotts Road, Ringsend, Dublin 4

Following suit from neighbours Google, the Airbnb headquarters is a funky workspace with a strong dose of Irish traditional inspiration.

Designed by Dublin-based architecture firm Heneghan Peng, the Ringsend headquarters incorporates a reception area that centres on a horseshoe-shaped bar, and boasts replicas of Irish phone boxes for employees to make personal calls. The company's 'collaborative work-space pods' are decorated to mimic the styles of Airbnb listings around the world.

7 Best for: Shopaholics

23-27 College Green, Dublin 2

Now this is truly what you'd call living above the shop. The old National Irish Bank building on College Green - in use as a bank from 1863 until 2013 - was transformed into a flashy five-level H&M store earlier this year. Now, we now get a peek inside the eight luxury apartments on the top floor.

8 Best for: Work-life balance

1 Nun's Lane, Killester, Dublin 5

This building takes the idea of 'home office' to another level. Where most of us imagine working from home in a small room with a desk and chair, Donal Hickey Architects imagined something different altogether.

In a garden estate in Killester, 1 Nun's Lane now includes two modern cubes constructed from concrete and glass: one for work and one for play. The three-storey house is separate from the double height studio on the site, which also incorporates morning, midday and evening courtyards, adding a little unexpected swit-swoo to the space.

9 Best for: Harry Potter Fans

Graduate Memorial Building, Trinity College, College Green, Dublin 2

Trinity's Graduate Memorial Building was designed in 1897 by Sir Thomas Drew to celebrate the college's third centenary and to provide residential accommodation for students. Today, it is the only building on the Trinity campus wholly run by students. It also houses the college's oldest student societies, the University Philosophical Society, the College Historical Society and the College Theological Society. The neo-Gothic Victorian building consists of three joined houses, two on either side for residential accommodation and the centre building holding the societies, with libraries, conversation rooms, and even billiard rooms for each.

10 Best for: The Spiritual

Holy Faith Spirituality Centre, Holy Faith Convent, Glasnevin, Dublin 9

It's not every day you head off to explore the architecture of an Irish convent, but the Holy Faith Sisters have opened their Margaret Aylward Centre overlooking the Botanic Gardens and the Tolka River in Glasnevin this weekend.

Designed by MOLA Architecture, the centre includes a theatre, a sacred space, and a series of office rooms which are interlinked with ramps and steps. The building's exterior is made of opaque glass panels to reflect the surrounding trees, sky, lawn and buildings.

The Centre, which opened in 2014, is used by local community groups throughout the year and the Order hopes to encourage inter-faith dialogue through the facility.

Tour to take

Best for: The Music Buff

18th Century Sound Systems

Architecture meets music history on this tour of Number 12 Henrietta Street on the north side of the city. Learn about the role music played in the lives of Dublin's Georgian gentry and how the buildings were designed to maximise acoustics and atmosphere as music venues. This interactive installation will recreate 18th-century domestic music scenarios as a part of The Drawing Room series of concerts in North Georgian Dublin houses. Spots on this interactive tour are limited and by lottery only.

Visiting hours vary by property, for details and to book tours see or call on (01) 425 4080.

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