Reading Richard Sennett’s book ‘The Craftsman’, Dublin City Architect Ali Grehan was intrigued by a passage describing construction work at the Vatican carried out by Pope Sixtus V. When designing new work, it was said that the Pope used descriptive words, never drawings, to convey his ideas directly to his crafts workers. In August 2009 Culturstruction were asked by Dublin City Council Architects Department to plan and facilitate a series of workshops through which children would design a temporary public space. It was stipulated that, like Sixtus V, the children could only describe their design in words. The spoken brief, in the format of an audio recording, would then be given to Brendan McCabe at Dublin City Council Joinery Workshop. Brendan and his carpentry team would be tasked with deciphering and constructing the children’s audio design.
Fifteen children aged 6 – 10 years participated in the week-long workshop programme. Through the workshops each child became a ‘public space critic’ and undertook field trips in this capacity – creatively testing and critically evaluating the city’s existing public spaces on their own terms. They also visited the Dublin City Council Joinery Workshop, held a group meeting at the Civic Offices and consulted with the council’s Play Development Officer. They were introduced to ideas of site-surveying, measurement and scale, creative brainstorming, group decision making, democratic voting and gained new interview and audio recording skills to help them to communicate their design ideas.
The temporary park was constructed by the Dublin City Council Maintenance Division and installed for two days during Dublin’s ‘Innovation Week’ in mid-October 2009. The children then had a chance to play in this space that they had influenced the design of. They also observed how other members of the community responded to their designs.
The Lilliput Workshops and Park provided a model that could help children to understand the processes and powers behind the design of their neighbourhood. Through this project they could learn that there are multiple possible futures for the communities they live in and, crucially, that they could play a valuable role in influencing the changes their environments require.
Few know a town, a street or a neighbourhood as well as the children and teenagers who live, play and hang out there. Children can provide sensitive and illuminating insights when we listen to them…
In the closing seconds of our short project documentary, eight-year-old Oscar is asked to describe his ideal public space. He pauses before answering … ‘a place where you can wander off but never get lost.’
With thanks to Cabra Road Library, Ali Grehan and all at Dublin City Council Architect’s Department, Brendan McCabe and all at the Dublin City Council Maintenance Division. All illustrations by Mark Wickham. Film editing by Katie Lincoln.
Funded by Dublin City Council for Innovation Week 2009.
Dublin City Council Architects Department
illustrations by Mark Wickham
Brendan McCabe and Dublin City Council Maintenance Division