Commonage 2012

Project Description

In 2012 the Commonage Summer School was focused on ideas of accessibility and the politics of making.

Running from the 1st – 17th August up to 50 participants, builders and designers from around Callan, across Ireland and further afield (including Greece, Denmark, Scotland, Italy, England) collected and worked together on three design and make workshops (a cowshed, a footbridge and a gate prototype) whilst also attending and contributing to a parallel programme of evening discussions, lectures, films, music and food.

As part of the Commonage Summer School 2012 curatorial team we developed and facilitated the Commonage Summer School collaborative ‘design and build’ workshop programme. Working closely with each workshop team we encouraged designers to explore ways of making which would enable the participation of people with widely varying skills, expertise and physical strength. We also located and connected design teams with local and specialist crafts persons and materials. As projects developed each design team evolved a distinct approach to the Summer School questions of participation, collaboration and collective making. Summer School participants moved between the three workshops and had the opportunity to work at brick-laying, roofing, lime-plastering and green oak construction.

COWSHED : A small cowshed and hayloft was designed and built through a workshop led by ‘The Cowshed Collective’. The completed cowshed is situated in the yard of Westcourt Farm on the outskirts of Callan, Co. Kilkenny. At ground level there is a space for a cow and a calf. Above is an airy hayloft. The roof of the cowshed is designed to channel and collect rainwater.

The most physically ambitious of the three 2012 Summer School workshops the ‘Cowshed Collective’ defined the form and foundations of the cowshed in advance of workshop. During the 17-day workshop the design team then engaged summer school participants in the design and construction of elements of the building; these included laying the reclaimed brick screen-wall, designing the ventilated hayloft cladding and constructing the rainwater collecting roof. The cowshed was constructed primarily with reclaimed materials including those sourced through Camphill Callan and the reuse of remnants of previous temporary Commonage installations.

The Cowshed Collective is a group of recent graduates who met while studying at University College Dublin: Samuel Kane, James Kennedy, Albert Tobin, Scott Morton and Michael Hayes. The collective is formed through a shared interest in an architecture that responds to the ordinary. Bricklaying demonstrations were provided by Michael Burke. Plastering demonstrations by Damien Condon. Lime rendering demonstrations by Edward Byrne. With thanks to Pat Murphy.

FOOT BRIDGE: A footbridge was designed and built through a workshop led by LiD Architecture. The bridge was constructed using a repeating and responsive system of vertical t-sections and horizontals of green oak. The completed bridge, reminiscent of the Irish ‘hurdles’, crosses a defunct millrace to connect a pedestrian route from Callan town to the Camphill farm at Westcourt. It is hoped that the bridge can be a formative part of planning towards the development of a pedestrian trail in Callan

Designing in situ, in an ill-defined soggy watercourse, the workshop team used the t-shaped element to map the depth of the riverbed in tandem with the construction of the footbridge.

LiD Architecture, established in 2003 by Dougal Sheridan and Deirdre McMenamin explores the use of landscape theory and strategies in architecture. James Grace kindly lent his knowledge and experience in working with green oak.

THE CALLAN GATE: The ‘Callan Gate’ workshop was led by Gearóid Muldowney (of Superfolk). The long-term ambition of the workshop is to develop a simple, accessible gate that can be batch produced using simplified techniques and relate to Kilkenny’s rich heritage of decorative agricultural ironwork. It is hoped the gate prototyping and workshop approach can inform plans for a future river walk development in Callan.

The workshop approached collaborative design by foregrounding research into materials and vernacular making techniques as well as undertaking field trips to witness decorative ironmongery in the Kilkenny area. Participants  explored and trialled traditional ‘cold’ making techniques including cold riveting, twisting and bending using minimal, low-tech tools and jigs. As the design of the gate prototypes evolved particular attention was given to self-closing mechanisms, wheelchair accessibility, ease of use and simplicity of making for repeated production.

Superfolk design studio was established in 2008 and is led by Irish designer Gearóid Muldowney. The studio’s heart is in the craft of production, be that handmade or industrial. Further knowledge, assistance and tools were kindly provided by Michael O’Dwyer, Stoneyford Engineering.

SUMMER SCHOOL PARALLEL PROGRAMME: As part of the Commonage curatorial team we also contributed to the curating of the Summer School Parallel Programme which  included public talks, film screenings, field trips, meals, evening discussions, music and guided field trips . Dowload the full 2012 programme here.

The ‘Parallel Programme’ included contributions by a wide range of practitioners reflecting the Summer Schools inquisitive and inclusive cross-disciplinary approach.

Patrick O’Connor (geographer); Colin Bell (architect); Nozomi Nakabayashi (architect); Ríonach Ní Néill (geographer and dancer); Jennie Moran (artist); Laura Harty (architect); Gabrielle Ackroyd (Phd researcher in anthropology); Etaoin Holohan (curator); Fiona McDonald (artist/architect); Henrietta Williams (photographer); Emma Houlihan (artist); Orla Murphy (architect); Alan Counihan (artist); Dominic Stevens (architect); Ruth E. Lyons (artist) and Carl Giffney (artist) of The Good Hatchery;  Nuno Sacramento of the Scottish Sculpture Workshop; Adam Sutherland of Grizedale Arts; Sarah Lincoln (artist); I Draw Slow (music); Pat Collins (film-maker)


A10, Issue 53, Sept / Oct 2013, as part of Eurovision focus on Ireland

Architecture Ireland, Issue 266, January 2013, p.22-23

BDonline, January 2013, article titled ‘The Best architect-designed cowsheds in the Mooniverse’. The article selects their ‘pick of the five most beautiful cowsheds in the world’ ranking the Callan Cowshed at No.4

Designboom, February 2013, ‘The cowshed collective brings sustainability to social farming’

Archdaily, March 2013, ‘Commonage Summer School Project 2012′

Project Details


Commonage and Camphill Callan




Commonage curatorial team 2012:
Jo Anne Butler, Tara Kennedy, Rosie Lynch, Hollie Kearns
Commonage Summer School 2012 Participants included:
Kirsty Cassels, Caroline Brayson, Theodora-Rafaela Nani, Kaja Sofia Skytte, Gabrielle Ackroyd, Giancarlo Albino, Ciara McCurtin, Denise Kehoe, Martina Foley, Olivia Hillery, Ethan Dooley, Marcin Woszczyna, Stephen Laverty, David Upton, Lorcan Mulhern, Brian Cregan, Hugh O'Rourke, Robert Chapman, Martin McGloin, Brian Jordan, Andy Kiely, Sam Bishop, Emily-Ann Gilligan, Philip Ryan, John Wallace, Gabriella Kiss, James Irvine, Aleksander Johansen.

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