Shane « Designing Dublin: Learning to Learn

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Choosing our ‘Prototype Area’

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

We have some information mapped into our GIS, but not yet all. We have also been running a parallel process for choosing an area whereby we use ‘softer’ means (such as instinct, or looking over our information gathered from people we’ve talked to) to choose our prototype area.

Here’s mine…based on a mixture of what I’ve heard from the people that we’ve spoken to and instinctively choosing an area that appears to me to be a hotbed of all of our themes.

(Slide number in top right of slide corresponds with the number below.)

  1. I’m choosing Capel Street, Capel Bridge and Parliament Street…to form a central vein or backbone…then adding in surrounding areas as required to suit prototyping our challenges and opportunities found. Choosing such a central spine would also help us promote/advertise our activities which might be taking place in the ‘back areas’.
  2. The area populations are even between males and females but sharply spike between 20-35 year olds.
  3. There are numerous vacant properties in the area which we could work with. There are also a few vacant lots which are now used for surface carparking.
  4. There is a good mix of mixed-use properties and both separate commercial and residential properties in the area. Therefore the area represents a good opportunity to demonstrate both day-time and night-time activities.
  5. The area is one of the most representational areas in the City in terms of a healthy mix of private and social housing, and also provides a good opportunity to engage with multicultural people in Dublin.
  6. The area has a large number of under-utilised parks and also with some ‘green’ items.
  7. The proposed zone contains both great opportunities for moving around (3 Dublin Bike stations, a Luas line and also bus stops), and also challenges such as an over-trafficed street and one-way systems.
  8. The area of Capel Street specifically was mentioned by several people in terms of safety. Numerous surrounding areas were also mentioned.
  9. The expense of Dublin City was one items raised repeatedly. Capel Street is one of the cheaper streets in Dublin. The area also contains (or has nearby) pay-as-you-go office space, cars and bikes…and also pretty good public transport links – which could make it one of the cheaper areas in the city to work or start up a business.
  10. There are numerous facilities which appear under-utilised to me.
  11. The area has bars, some late bars and also an ‘Early House’ (but no night club). It might provide a good testing area.
  12. Numerous gems surround the area.
  13. Ensuring that the proposed area crosses the Liffey ensures that the Northside/Southside divide issue could be explored. Capel Street Bridge is also one of the wider bridges and has a history of structures on it (if that becomes necessary).
  14. As a counterpoint to Dundrum, this area contains the potential for small and varied (Capel Street & Parliament Street and Temple Bar West) and large international (Mary and Henry Street) shopping all within very close proximity (one of the reasons people like Dundrum SC). It also has some of the only free near-city parking and also potential for a large cheap or free car park in DCC’s basement carpark.
  15. Designing Dublin has numerous ‘friends’ (businesses or individuals that we’ve spoken to, worked with, or are supported by) in the area.
  16. This zone contains a Local Authorities office, a university, large markets, large shopping centres, and cultural centres. Few areas in the city contain such a mix.
  17. Where Needs More Love? Well, the area mentioned most to us (from Linnea and Nuala’s research) was Smithfield. How better to help Smithfield than to better connect it to the bustling areas of the city. The second-most mentioned area was O’Connell Street. Working in this area would also indirectly help O’Connell Street. As you can see from this slide, the Capel Street/Parliament Street spine links 6 areas of the city. Isn’t that what this project is about?!
  18. Playgrounds and schools for children.
  19. Popular places for teens.
  20. Students in the area.
  21. Various items for seniors in the area.

The Quays

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

The recent Budget/IMF protests provided the possibility to see the North Quays without traffic.

What do you think…would they make a pleasant place to sit out in front of a cafe, restaurant or bar?

What would they be like if we didn’t have those solid walls, but instead railings or glass balustrades (so you could better get a sense of the river)? I.e. like the boardwalk but without the narrow feeling that they often have, and with decent width to allow us to create decent spaces.

Would they make nice playgrounds or skateboard parks or places to bowl along the canal?

Perhaps a second row of trees?

If we felt it was worth aiming for, how do we ensure that we get there?

Choosing our Test Area (where we will prototype)

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

We have started to look at mapping where our test area might be (we will use mapping to DECIDE on the area – so we don’t yet have an idea as to where it will be).

Any thoughts on where we should choose?

Street Play

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Anyone else notice how much street play and street activity there was during the recent snow?

See the pic below…sorry it’s not great, but you can just about see a few adults playing ‘hide-and-seek’ meets snowball fight in the background. In the foreground there’s two cyclists…they were going along at a casual pace having a chat, something I haven’t before seen around here (it’s near where I live).

Here’s also a short video (there’s not a huge amount to see…it’s the sounds that give you a sense of the level of activity and enjoyment amongst the adults). It’s also very noticeable that you can pretty much ONLY hear their calls…usually you’d hear sounds of traffic mostly. This video was taken between 6pm and 7pm…so during what would usually be ‘peak traffic’.

Did the snow provide us with a chance to catch a glimpse of what streets used to be like (and perhaps could be like once again) if we were able to reduce the usage car ownership and car usage?

Unorthodox Play in the City

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Passed by two people the other day (mid to late 20′s) skating down the side of Stephen’s Green. They had come prepared (judging by the small cones which they were weaving in and out of), but it struck me that it was ‘unorthodox play’…by that I mean, I wouldn’t have been surprised if a Guard had moved them on…it wasn’t an ‘official’ play space such as the neighbouring park or a playground.

However it felt good to me (brightened my evening), felt respectful to the City (they weren’t damaging the City’s infrastructure or annoying the people using it), and it actually made the City better (for eg that area was that little bit safer as there were then more people actively using it).

How can we encourage the City to accept this type of ‘grey behaviour’ (the expression that City Planner, Dick Gleeson used – see my earlier post), which can be very beneficial?

Using our streets better

Monday, November 29th, 2010

What are our streets currently used for in the City?

Generally car-parking and car driving mostly, with narrow pavements for pedestrians.

No space for children playing, not much space for trees, or seating, or for neighbours to feel that they can gather.

I found this picture interesting…the children (or perhaps their parents) felt that the snow somehow gave them ‘permission’ to play on the street. Normally they would feel that they’re getting in the way of someone’s car parking. Why was it OK once there was snow?

Is it because everything in the city has slowed down? (Cars drive much more slowly, and there’s much less traffic.)

Is it because the difference between path and road are now blurred? (Not so distinct here, but in areas you can barely tell where the carriageway ends and pathway starts).

Is it because the roadway is now ‘less suitable’ for cars (it’s almost foolish to drive), whereas usually that’s all it’s suitable for (it’s purposefully designed for cars, and cars only)?

Across the road, there are two older men chatting.  The snow encouraged all the neighbours on my street to start to make comments to one another (usually starting with the weather). Is it that we all want to talk to each other, but need some excuse to start?

Street Conversations – Multicultural

Friday, November 5th, 2010

The Idea:

The idea was to engage in street converstations with the multicultural cultures in the City to find out what they know about the City that we do not and to find out why and how they use the City Centre.

We wanted to find out the following :

  • What they find exciting in the City /Hidden Gems
  • To find champions or ambassadors for their areas/communities.
  • To seek out different perspectives
  • Comparisons between cultures/other countries/cities.
  • Find out how different values (eg family, religion, gender) might be reflected in the City.


We wanted to meet the following types of communities:

  • Asians
  • Africans
  • South Americans
  • Russian and East European

We went to the following locations:

  • Capel Street
  • Parnell Street
  • Ilac Centre/Moore Street

We asked the following questions:

  • Is there anything in Dublin that you thought was a bit unusual.
  • If a friend of yours was visiting the country and have been here for a few day – so they’ve seen all the usual touristy spots – what unusual place would you bring them that you like?
  • What makes Dublin unique for you? (Can you remember when you first arrived, was there anything that you thought was different in Dublin or that you thought was quirky?)

The people that we spoke to were from a range of countries and were here for a range of time:

  • Polish
  • Romanian (10 years)
  • Filipino (10 months) (pictured above)
  • India (1.5 years)
  • Slovakian (3 years)
  • Malaysia (4 years)
  • Irish (of Pakistani descent, 4th generation in Ireland) (pictured below)

Favourite Places/Place They’d bring a visiting friend:

  • The Old Mill Restaurant in Temple Bar (for Irish Food)
  • Aviva Stadium (for the atmosphere)
  • The Boardwalk between midnight and 2am (for the quiet, chilled atmosphere)
  • Chester Beatty
  • Mosque on Talbot St
  • Madinas on Mary St (Indian/Pakistani food)
  • El Bahia Restaurant (Clarendon St, Morrocon Food – small doorway only)
  • Sari Football Festival (during Summer)
  • Georges Street Arcade (excellent fabric for making saris, “best fish burgers in town”)
  • Malahide (if non-Muslim friend)
  • The 12th Robi.ul. (March/April each year)

- Sufis (scholars) speak
- Nasheeds (like gospel singers) sing

  • St Stephens Green Shopping Centre on the curved corner, top floor (great views)
  • Model airplane flying in the Phoenix Park
  • Gaelic sports


Several of them went out of their way to note that they didn’t feel discriminated in Dublin (and many had come here on a recommendation from a friend) and felt the Irish/Dublin people were very friendly. One Indian man expressed amazement (excitedly called us back as he remembered something else) that the Irish Gardaí had gone out of their way to try to help him recover his laptop which had been stolen while he was praying in the Mosque.

What would we change?

It could be difficult engaging with people in businesses. It might be better to invite them to a process or engage people on the street more akin to our other street conversations.

Hidden Gems in Dublin

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Did you know this place existed? I just discovered it the other day and sat out there for a coffee…it was fab!

Street Engagements – Teenagers

Thursday, November 4th, 2010


The idea was to engage in street converstations with teenagers to find out why and how they use the City Centre, and also what they know about the City that we do not know.


We moved around the (central city) to the following locations…

  • Henry Street – outside the Ilac Centre
  • Henry Street – outside Arnotts
  • O’Connell Street – at the junction of Henry/Talbot St (at the Spire)
  • O’Connell Street – at the junction of Abbey St (at statue in central median)
  • The Central Bank
  • The Georges Street Arcade
  • The Powerscourt Centre
  • Grafton Street
  • Stephens Green Shopping Centre
  • Stephens Green Park
  • Nassau Street
  • Pearse Street Flats
  • Grand Canal Docks

We asked the following questions…

  • Where do you like to hang out in Dublin?
  • Where do you like to chill out in Dublin?
  • Where in the City has the X-Factor for you?
  • If you were going on a date in the City, where would you go?
  • If you wanted to show a friend something or somewhere really special in the City, where would you bring them?
  • What annoys you about Dublin?
  • Whats not cool aout Dublin?
  • What do you hate about Dublin?
  • Do you think Dublin cares for Teenagers?
  • What do you think is missing from Dublin?
  • How do you get into the City to-day/ How did you find that? Can you suggest any small changes that could be made to make your journey easier?
  • If you were Major of Dublin for the Day what would you change to make the City nicer for teenagers and why?


The teenagers that we spoke to were from a range of ages and area for e.g

  • Clontarf
  • Palmerstown
  • Finglas
  • Howth
  • Crumlin
  • South Circular Road
  • Carpenterstown
  • Meath
  • Kilkenny
  • Baldoyle
  • Leixlip
  • Tallaght
  • Bluebell
  • Harolds Cross
  • Swords
  • Portobello
  • Waterford
  • Ballyroan
  • Terenure
  • Dundrum

The age range we spoke to went from 13-19yrs.

Teenagers in Dublin


The ‘hidden gems’ that we found ranged from a place nicknamed “the heaters” (which is a spot where they can hang out which has extract fans from a restaurant nearby and has a slight overhang for when it rains…to the rock garden in St Stephens Green (the park)…to Elk Wood inKnocklyon Forest (where Teens like to hang out).

In general however, we felt it was rather difficult to find ‘hidden gems’ as teenagers fall between the two stools of childhood (where you explore your very local/immediate environment and generally don’t feel the need to spend money) and adulthood (where you explore far and wide and have money to spend). They therefore tended to wanted to leave their immediate environment (“let’s head into town”) but perhaps didn’t have much money to have the confidence to explore, or the means to explore (public transport is very poor in Dublin and cars are an expensive luxury).

Whatever the reason, it was generally difficult to find hidden gems, but was easy to find out their obstacles and interests.

One item that really stood out was they all (no matter where or what types of teenagers we spoke to) wanted a free/cheap place to simply hang out with friends. We found it very easy to get them to describe this place and what it might contain. It would be very easy to prototype and test out in the City.


One issue that we had was that there generally are difficulties photographing minors under 18 years. Therefore we ended up with photos like the below – with some facing us, others facing away. It was also obviously a rather strange question to ask – can you turn around so I can photograph you from behind!! :)

Public Transport in Dublin

Monday, November 1st, 2010

I recently came across this website which is a public transport journey-planning service, which you can use to find directions in and around Dublin.