Vincent « Designing Dublin: Learning to Learn

Archive for the ‘Vincent’ Category

Bins with Big Bellies.

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Walking through Trinity the other day I noticed a bin like no bin I’ve ever seen. Now I’m noticing them in other places around the city.


They’re called BigBelly Compactors and they work by compacting rubbish using solar power. They can communicate to their owners to say “I’m full – time to empty me”. Very smart!

Choosing an area to work in.

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Designing Dublin are soon to decide on an area to work in. Our decision will come about through a combination of factors. One way is by using a system called GIS. This is a computer software that allows the user to display data spatially on a map….this is the most basic way I can explain GIS. For a more in-depth explanation click on the link.

With GIS we are mapping the challenges that were brought up in our street conversations and other public engagements. The idea is that when we map all of the issues that bring about the challenges we will be confronted with a type of ‘hotspot’ on a map of Dublin.

Other ways that will help us decide on an area is to go back to our research and review the information gathered from the people over the last few months, go out talk to more people and see what area they feel we should pick, go for a walk and explore the City and the challenges to get a fresh feel, and use intuition.

I’m happy to work in any area in the City Centre. I think we’ll be confronted with loads of issues no matter what area we choose. But, saying that, I do have some ‘personal favourites’.

Over the weekend I took a long look over a map of Dublin and figured that an area around Caple Street would be interesting to work in. I came to this conclusion through a combination of intuition and also by asking people what areas they thought needed more attention. When I asked people I noticed that the Market areas between Chancery Street and Mary’s Lane were brought up again and again. The Board walk was brought up, as was the area around Winetavern Street and Cook St. on the south side.

For this reason I chose Caple Street as the backbone of the area with a fuzzy line veering from left to right. This fuzzy line would include the three parks around Caple Street ( Green Street park and Handball court, Jervis Street public area, and Ormond Sq. Park). It would also include the river and the area around the Civic offices to Winetavern Street. I would include the Markets as an area to concentrate on also. The area I have chosen is equidistant from O’Connell St. and Smithfield. It is also interesting to note that Capel Street was formerly the main street of Dublin before O’Connell St. was built.

Below is a rough map of the area I have in mind.

New signposts around Dublin City!

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

While I’m glad to see the new sign posts beginning (very slowly) to appear around the city it would be nice to see this happen only after all the surplus poles have been taken down.

There are so many poles now that there’s an element of street clutter. I’m not alone in thinking this. Theres a really good forum on Archiseek (click on the link) that references loads of poles all around the city. It’s really amazing just how many there are and it only becomes evident when you see them all documented in one place. The forum also highlighted another issue that I have… the problem of private companied cluttering the streets with their own signs.

And a good question is raised in the archiseek forum too,
What if we got rid of all parking signs and simply used a double yellow line as indicating no parking here ever. And then, rather than have five million poles in the city, simply have the parking details: zone, time restrictions, day restrictions etc, marked on all of the nearby cash parking machines ?’ ………Sounds like a good idea to me.

Below is an example of some exuberant signposting!…

Putting an idea into action

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

So this was the fun day….not that all days aren’t fun at Designing Dublin. But some are more fun than others and this was one of them. We each had to pitch 20 of our ideas to the team. We had three minutes to do it in. It was very Dragon’s Den-esque.

After our pitch the team voted as to what idea of the twenty they liked the most. They voted for the idea by placing a white sticker on the post-it. The task we were given was to prototype one of the ideas that had a sticker on it. We had 4hrs to prepare and another 4hrs to put it the idea into action. The idea that I ran with was :

This was the idea I considered the most realiseable in the 4hrs we were given. I couldn’t see myself standardising bus fares around the city or creating a ‘Greenlight District’ in Dublin in 4hrs.

As this was a prototype I chose 6 stops on the Luas red line in the central 1 area. I spent the morning researching interesting historical tid-bits on Heuston Station, Collins Barracks, Smithfield, The Four Courts, Jervis and Abbey Street.

The information I researched were these little known facts-

“Heuston Station is named after Sean Heuston who died aged 25 in 1916. Heuston, a railway clerk, led a group of 26 volunteers in the 1916 rising. He and his small garrison held off 300 British troops, buying much needed time for his compatriots fighting in the city. His orders were to hold off the British soldiers for 4 hours. He held for 2 days.”

“Before its conversion as a museum in 1997 Collins Barracks was the oldest inhabited barracks in Europe, and also one of the largest. It was built in the year 1702.”

“Smithfield was the home of Dublins oldest workhouse. During the 170 years that it operated the premises housed 10’037 orphans. It closed its doors in July 1969, never to be opened again.”

“Four Courts gets its name from the courts of Chancery, Kings Bench, Exchequer, and Common Pleas which were housed there in the 1900′s. The legal system was completely changed in the late 1900′s, abolishing the four courts, but the name stuck.”

“Before becoming a shopping centre in 1996, 14 Jervis Street was the mansion of the Earl of Charlemont. In 1796 six Dublin doctors used their own money to turn it into a hospital after reaching an agreement with the Earl.”

“George Frideric Handel, the German born composer, lived on Abbey Street in the summer of 1741. That summer he composed his ‘Messiah’ which would be considered by many as one of his most famous works.”

Then I went to the stops and stuck up the signs that I had made.

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I was very happy with the amount of attention the signs were getting. Immediately after putting up the signs a crowd gathered to read them. One lady at Smithfield stop, said to me that she had never known that Smithfield had a workhouse. She had grown up in Smithfield and has lived there her entire life. She thanked me for telling her about it. Just that alone made me feel that what I had done was worthwhile and it re-enforced my view that more should be done to educate people about their surroundings. The benefits of this idea is two fold in my view. By educating people to the history of their surroundings I believe people garner a certain respect for the area that was previously non-existent, the other benefit (if the idea was grown to include bus stops) is that people would know where they are in the city. I have no clue why bus stops don’t have a stop announcement or why there are no signs displaying what stop you are at.

Scheduled Conversation Summary

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Following on from our learnings in the area of processes Nuala and I invited five guests to another process. The guests were:

Kevin O’ Keeffe from Occupy Space

Chris Maher the CEO of Soul Festival

Roisin Beirne from The Exchange, Dublin

Philip Flynn CEO of the Digital Hub

Darren Ryan of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.

The theme of this process was ‘Start-up new things in the City’, something each of our guests had particular knowledge and experience in.

The process took place in the Pillar Room on the grounds of the Rotunda Hospital adjacent to the Gate Theatre. It has a classic appearance with magnificent marbled pillars running along the length of the ballroom.

The Pillar Room has a unique character and charm that we felt created a theatrical atmosphere for the process.

Both Nuala and myself facilitated a conversation around the subject of starting up new things in the city by asking our guests to write a question of which they would like to know the answer onto a piece of paper and then place it into a hat. When the task was complete we asked one guest in turn to take a piece of paper from the hat and pose the question to the group. Each question had ten minutes discussion time before we went on to the next guest to repeat the procedure.

At the end of fifty minutes we had a 10 minute discussion on what it was that we found interesting, what we had learned, and if a similar process was to take place in the future what would be worth doing differently. By the end of the process each of our guests expressed enthusiasm for repeating the experience.

Stakeholders and Users Process

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Myself and Linnea were teamed up to carry out a ‘process’ with specifically selected invitees. First I should explain what a process is. According to Kristin and Paul, our process teachers from Denmark, a process is an involvement of people to find points of interest.

Think of it as an interview but more theatrical, creative and innovative. The key to a good process is keeping a spontaneity or looseness while at the same time not losing focus on the direction you want to take…as Paul would say ‘It is very important to be prescient’ (it sounds better in a Danish accent).

The desired outcome of our process were three fold. One, to discover gems in the city that were previously not well known, two to create new links and relationship between our invited guests that did not exist previously, and three, to highlight new capacities of change in the city for the good of all it’s users.
The people that myself and Linnea were to invite came about through analysing the themes of periphery, transport and innovation. We identified stakeholders that had a particular link to each of these themes and shaped our process to uncover hidden gems with in the city.

Our process involved meeting our guests in the grounds of Dublin Castle and taking them to the Chester Beatty roof garden, a place that Linnea considered to be a gem that was not very well known. We began by introducing ourselves and the process. We layed out a map of the city we asked our guests to ponder on the hidden gems that they knew of. From there we took a bicycle trip using Dublin Bikes to the Blessington Basin on the north side of the city. At this destination we had a picnic prepared for our guests complete with chairs, blankets and a picnic basket containing bread, cheese, olives, a selection of meats, wine and soft drinks.

I have no doubt that the relaxed attitude of the process and the energising activities helped our guests come up with insights that would not have been possible in a traditional interview. The entire process was documented by two people using photography and note taking. The finding were later distilled to be used at a later date.

100 Ideas- A wall of Post-its

Friday, October 8th, 2010

We were given the simple task of coming up with 100 ideas to improve the city. We had to think of twenty ideas within the five categories of Enterprise, Society, Storytelling, Spirit and Interaction. Sound easy?? Well I can tell you it’s not….especially considering we only had 5 days to do it in.

Most of my ideas came while sitting on the bus. Some of them were rubbish, some of them not so rubbish. I quickly realised that if I disregarded every silly one I’d never finish in the allotted 5 day timeframe. So they all got written up on a post-it. I became accustomed to the sideways glances of fellow passengers. It’s nice to see a record of my ‘bus thinking time’ represented as a wall of luminous post-its. It makes it feel like it was time not so wasted.





100 Examples: Love the City

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Similar to our 100 Ideas project we were given the assignment of collating 100 examples related to Enterprise, Society, Spirit, Interaction and Storytelling.

They are gathered below for your viewing pleasure.
Just click the link.

Branding Dublin? Good Idea/Bad Idea??

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Today we had a speaker called Jim Dunne. He is working on an interesting project called The Spirit of Dublin. ‘Spirit of Dublin’ is essentially a fact finding mission as to the appropriateness of creating a Dublin brand and also the feasibility of doing so. Jim’s talk was very interesting, he also highlighted the difficulties of their endeavour.

When I think of a city with a good brand I think of Paris. I think of couples walking the Champs-Elysees, boat ride on the Seine, and the Eiffel tower in Autumn. Very romantic imagery; and that’s what the brand is….a city of romance.

What is it that makes me think of Paris in this way? How did Paris get branded as a city of romance? Well, I think self-image and identity are the conerstones of a successful brand. There would be a real danger of branding Dublin without first cultivating a strong self-image and identity within her citizens. Without those two things, any branding would quickly be seen as hollow and lacking authenticity.

How do we get people to see Dublin in an idealised way, the same way I imagine Paris to be? We don’t have the Seine, or the Eiffel tower, and we’re not particularly renowned for our romantic nature. But Dublin does have her own uniquities.

Whether it’s the smell of hops in the air, or the way it’s considered normal to thank our bus drivers after a journey, the branding of Dublin will come about by, firstly, realising and, secondly, having pride in these uniquities.

By nurturing Dublin’s unique and special properties we can then put it on display for visitors to see. This in turn will hopefully leave a positive, lasting impression of the city for people living here and people coming here.

The Story of Designing Dublin

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Once upon a time there was a man called Jim, and a lady called Jean. Jim and Jean didn’t really like the way people were being taught in Ireland. They thought the whole education system needed a big wake up call. Jim visited an exhibition called ‘Massive Change’. It was here that the idea of Designing Dublin was born.

Jean and Jim got in touch with a girl called Vannesa who had worked on the Massive Change project. After many phone calls, numerous meetings and countless e-mails Vannesa agreed to become creative director of a not-for-profit company called Design21c. Together they dreamt up a project called Designing Dublin:Learning to Learn…DD:LL for short.

DD:LL would be a learning initiative where they would get volunteers who wanted to make the city better and at the same time enable those same volunteers to better listen, hear, see, say and hopefully, at the same time, make Dublin City better.

Designing Dublin gets funded by the Dublin Regional Authority and also receives a certain amount of private donations. The Designing Dublin team is comprised of people from multi-disciplinary backgrounds. The current team includes artists, designers, architects, various positions within Dublin City Council, engineers and community development workers. It is now in it’s second year.