Speech by Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan T.D., at the launch of Open House 2018

Check Against Delivery 

My thanks to Chairperson Pauline Byrne and Nathalie Weadick, Director of the Irish Architecture Foundation for inviting me here this evening for the launch of Open House 2018.

It so happens that this is the European Year of Cultural Heritage. It is a special time for me to be Minister with responsibility for the Heritage portfolio. The recent discoveries in the crop marked fields in Co Meath, for example are a profound and moving reminder of how close we can be to our ancient heritage even in our most ordinary moments.

Indeed the theme for Open House is -Tomorrow’s Past: Discover our Future Heritage. It is no less thought provoking. After all, Architecture is everywhere, all around us, every house, school, office, hospital and supermarket was built for a purpose. Our buildings are our lived- in sculptures.

What? we can only wonder? will the buildings of today tell future generations about life in 21st century Dublin?

“Níl aon tinteán mar do thintean féin, a deireann an seanfhocal, ach nil aon tinteán níos suimiúla ná tinteaín na gcomharsan. Agus seo an deis tinteáin na gcomharsan a fheiscint. Go hoifigiúil!! “

Since its inception, Open House Dublin has proved its potential to engage with a wide range of our city’s shapers – from the general public to policy-makers – highlighting the significant role that architecture can, and has, played in our everyday lives. I am really pleased that this year also my Department has been in a position to continue to provide financial support.

It gives everyone the chance to experience the many aspects of architecture. There is the excitement of this year’s re-opening of Kevin Street Library, which first opened in 1904 to the practicality of George’s Place, an exemplary social housing development of 12 new high-quality energy efficient family homes and the contrast to 14 Henrietta Street – originally built in the 1740s as a townhouse for the elite of Dublin; it was split into tenements in the 1900s and, by 1911, was home to 100 people. It now houses the Tenement Museum.

These buildings along with the Royal College of Surgeons and Government Buildings South Block, home to the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, are just some of the exciting new additions to this year’s programme.

In fact over 100 great buildings that aren’t usually accessible to the public will open their doors, inviting everyone to explore our fascinating architectural heritage. Witness this treasure trove of Dublin architecture with special tours guided by professionals and enthusiasts, and all for free!

When the website is live later this evening you will see the full compliment of the buildings included. I am intrigued to see that, for the first time, it will feature a building for every decade from 1700 right up to the present day. This is a phenomenal opportunity for us to experience the evolution of our city’s architecture over 300 years in response to the various social, political, cultural and economic influences. I am also pleased to see that Open House will continue in both Limerick and Belfast this year opening open up some of those cities most interesting buildings and spaces for residents and visitors to experience. I wish these cities all the best in this worthy pursuit.

Out of the 44 cities, however, that deliver Open House, Dublin is one of the best-established, in no small part to the Irish Architecture Foundation for its continued dedication and hard work. Being part of this network raises the profile of Dublin’s architecture and hopefully also attracts international visitors and employers to Ireland when they see the quality of our architect’s work and our rich architectural heritage.

Open House Dublin is of course the Irish Architecture Foundation’s flagship annual event. Now in its 13th year it has proved hugely successful, with audiences growing annually. Last year, Open House Dublin achieved a staggering figure of over 33,000 people interacting with architecture over three days.  The primary purpose, of course, of the Irish Architecture Foundation is to raise public awareness of the cultural value of architecture. Among the key projects in addition to Open House are:

The National Architects in Schools Initiative, which is now in its 3rd year. It has been rolled out to transition Year students across 30 schools nationwide.

There is also the NEW-NOW-NEXT series of public talks about NEW Ideas, regarding contemporary issues relevant NOW that can impact the NEXT generation.  I am delighted to see ‘Reimagine…’ up and running. This is the IAF’s most ambitious national project to date, designed to engage people with their local environments and collaborate with architects, designers and artists to affect positive change and deepen people’s relationship with their villages, towns and cities. I am pleased to say I have just recently awarded this project significant support of €70,000 through my Department’s Creative Ireland Programme.

This year’s programme will also reflect on the increasing influence Irish architects have on Europe and beyond by featuring Irish architects who are winning significant projects in Europe and Asia.

On that note, I must mention one further highlight of this year’s Open House. Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell, of Grafton Architects and Curators of this year’s Venice Architectural Biennale, will provide a keynote lecture, on Friday 12th October at 6.30pm in Edmund Burke Theatre, titled ‘Freespace’. On 5th March 2018 I was privileged to launch the Venice Architectural Biennale in Dublin Castle and from both meeting Shelley & Yvonne and listening to their riveting speeches, it is a date certainly not to be missed!

Shelley and Yvonne were selected as the first ever Irish architects as overall curators for the exhibition which is the largest and most renowned platform for architecture in the world, described  by the renowned documentary photographer and former participant Richard Mosse as the World Cup for Architecture. It would be remiss of me also not to pay homage to our shared gender for achieving this significant milestone and making Ireland so proud. Well done to you both.

I am particularly pleased to announce that Open House Dublin have partnered again with the Peter McVerry Trust this year and are offering the proceeds of the Open House Dublin Text To Donate button to the Peter McVerry Trust. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the Chairperson, Pauline Byrne the Director, Nathalie Weadick, and the Staff and Board of the Irish Architecture Foundation for their tireless work to increase awareness of the value of good architecture.

I thank the hundreds of professionals and enthusiasts who generously volunteer their time to aid in the delivery of Open House Dublin. I thank the curators of our architectural heritage for their unstinting efforts and all the owners who open their doors to the public for this great event.

Without these committed societies and individuals we simply would not have an architectural heritage to explore and celebrate. They are the bedrock of the Open House initiative.

The Foundation, of course, would not be in a position to continue without funding and support. It is laudable that the core funders have remained with the Foundation from the beginning. Their efforts have enabled the organisation develop and grow. They include my own Department, the Arts Council, Dublin City Council, with 17 council projects featured in the City Centre this year, and the office of public works.

Sincere gratitude to the Bank of Ireland who is supporting this year’s Open House Dublin as the festival’s Principal Partner. I congratulate both on the partnership. This significant commitment to provide financial and promotional support will enable the delivery of an ambitious programme, and will bring the festival to the attention of an even wider audience.

I would like to thank The Heritage Council, Ireland’s national coordinator of the European Year of Cultural Heritage, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Waterways Ireland for their contribution and support.

I acknowledge the contribution of private sponsors Airbnb and IAF Corporate Circle members Hibernia REIT plc, DNG, Henry J Lyons and Dublin Port Company. And, of course, media partnerships with RTE Supporting the Arts, Totally Dublin and JC Decaux give the event a media presence that would be otherwise unaffordable. Without their support, Open House Dublin would simply not have the same visibility and engagement each year.

In conclusion, it gives me great pleasure to formally launch the Open House Dublin 2018 Programme.

Beirigí bua agus beannacht agus níl amhras orm ná go mbeidh rath ar ócáid na bliana seo freisin”

I strongly encourage everyone to discover or re-discover the architecture of this great City, from a new perspective, by visiting and engaging with as many of the spaces and places as you can.

To quote Winston Churchill:

We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”

Go raibh mile maith agaibh

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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