Granby park is an example of a Dublin’s derelict space transformation into a pop-up park, a place for the nature, the art and the culture, initially motivated by a Charity Campaing from “Better Together”, a non-profit organization wich aims to o make Ireland a better place by building support for charities, clubs and associations across the country.
The project was developed by Up-start Collaborative Ltd, a non-profit voluntary arts collective and was born as a reaction of the lack of public spaces and the amount of derelict places in the city since the construction boom started to fall down.
Finally, the project could be reality thanks to the initial prize from Better Together and the economical funding from a crowdfunding campaing, public and private investments, collaboration with private companies and the help of a lot of volunteers.
During a month, a empy plot was filled by activities, artistic interventions, gardening and summarizing, as a nexus for a lot of collectives, neighbors and associations.
The project is placed in Dublin, in the North Inner City district, near Dominick sreet lower area.
The immediate area is currently in a variety of uses including both light industrial, commercial and residential. The site originally comprised eight blocks of five-storey Local Authority flats, containing 198 units, some of which have now been demolished and cleared from the site.
Context and controversials
The District of North Inner City has about 89,000 inhabitants, and by analyzing the demographic distribution of the neighborhood, is shown to be a unique example within the entire city, due to the fact that 61% of its residents are foreigners, compared with 21% of the rest of the city.
In particular the area surrounding Lower Dominick Street has a 51% foreign, being Polish and Lithuanian community the two most representative groups.
This fact represents a big cultural enrichment in the neighborhood, but by dealing with such large population groups, they start to distance themselves from others and generate autonomous communities.
So much so that a large number of inhabitants in the area do not speak Irish, about 21% of the total numbers of foreign claims to speak English poorly or not do it at all. This aspect is blocking the relationship between immigrant populations and Irish natives.
Furthermore, in recent years is shown a depopulation in the neighborhood of 22% of its capacity, generating empty buildings or areas of very low activity, having as a consequence the gap between local groups in the district with the rest of the community.
Another big controversial in the neighborhood is the lack of public spaces and the amount of derelict places and empty plots.
Over the course of the property boom in Ireland, essentially the decade from 1997 to 2007, land values in the inner area of Dublin rose in an almost exponential manner. As part of a general shift in urban and housing policy, central government decided to regenerate a number of inner city flat (apartment) complexes in Dublin using the leverage of increasing land values.
These social housing estates were to be demolished and regenerated as mixed tenure estates with a land for social housing exchange being undertaken. Under the rubric of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), a developer would receive part of a site for free, to develop and sell private market housing, and in return the municipality would develop new social housing on the remainder of the site. In theory, the new social housing was developed at no cost to government on the basis of the land swap.
What happened since 2007, however, was no mere fall in house prices but a catastrophic collapse of the property market, between 2007 and 2010 residential property prices fell by 38% (Central Statistics Office, 2011).
As a result, the estimated profit margins for developers, from the future sale of the private residential and commercial units, narrowed dramatically.
In addition, In late 2007, the private developers began to raise a number of problems with the financial composition of the projects and many developers went out of business, the process of regeneration stopped and as a result, Dublin began to have a lot of derelict spaces.
UP-START was the main agent who managed and started the project, but they were helped by five main groups of agents.
City council: Helped with a initial budget and all the public management.
Neelb: The North Eastern Education and Library Board has a vision of developing world class Education , Youth and Library Services.
Opw: The office of public works. With the help of the city council they sent workers to construct the park.
Fleetwood paints: Local paint company. They donate paint and materials to the park.
Ecocem Specialist producer of GGBS (Ground Granulated Blastfurnace Slag) cement. They collaborate with the construction of the park and donate the concrete for the foundation.
Generator hostel: Hostels company. They helped providing to the project a place to create events to gather donations.
O’sullivan’s graphics: Printing and art company, they managed the task of creating the posters to advertise what are going to happen in the park
Smithfield village: Smithfield area business association
Business in the comunity: Organisation to have all businesses in Ireland responsible and sustainable
Indigo & Clotht: Clothing store, they collaborate with up-start making t-shirts.
Sisks contractors: Building company, a private company that built the park.
Dublin city bids: Business improvement district
Happenings: Happenings run cultural events around Dublin city. They managed a lot of performances during the period when the park was open.
Street feast: Street Feast is a day of local lunches across Ireland on 23rd June, hosted by you and your neighbours. This event helped to gather information to design the park.
Pivot Dublin: Organization of Dublin city Architects to improve the city desing. They were involved in the designing process.
Volunteer Ireland: Volunteer Ireland is the national volunteer development agency and a support body for all local Volunteer Centres in Ireland. They sent a lot of volunteers from the rest of the city.
Bradog: Association focusing on identify key areas of development to enhance and increase existing services for local young people. They Sent volunteers from Belfast and Dublin to construct the pallet Theater (Dubfast theater)
Leargas: Leargas is a not-for-profit organisation that operates under the aegis of the Department of Education and Skills and the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs
A2 Architects + Sean Harrington Architects: Architectural firms worked on the official final project.
Casey O’rourke Associates: Consulting Structural and Civil Engineers
Trade School Dublin: Trade School Dublin is an alternative learning community that runs on barter. They helped with a lot of cross-workshops.
Bodytonic: Music promotion platform that helped gathering artists to perform in the park
The bernard shaw: Cultural restaurant-bar, helped too as bodytonic.
Block-t: Creative organisation to serve as a catalyst for artists, creative individuals and organisations, working to foster, showcase and exchange. They helped collecting artists to donate their works to the park.
The market studios: Non-profit organisation that provides 15 affordable studio workspaces for visual artists and a gallery space . Helped as Block-T.
This is what we do: Recycled and up-cycled wooden furniture based company. Helped with the design of wooden furniture and also involved in the construction of these furniture.
Lecool: Free weekly cultural magazine. They promoted the event in their magazine.
In the company of huskies: Creative agency that helps bring brands closer to people in the connected world
The complex: Multidisciplinar arts centre. They helped to collect artists to perform in the park.
The abbey theatre: Dublin’s Theatre. Helped with the construction of the Dubfast theater.
Third Space: Place for local people to gather & eat easily, inexpensively & regularly, with space for creative, cultural and community activities.
Develope of events:
18 th of November 2012, Better Together presents a contest of ideas for the renovation of empty spaces in Dublin, into which UP-Start presents their idea.
1 of December 2012, Up-start wins the contest prize worth by 10,000 €. Thereafter the collective begins to negotiate with the city council and the agents, which will be the location of the intervention, comparing it with the results of statistical analyzes from the demographic research by NUI Maynooth
Finally, the plot was provided by the City Council according
23 th of June 2013, Upstart uses Feast Street Party as a strategy to present the project to the neighborhood, display the capabilities of the park as incubator of activities and have an initial feedback of the main objectives of the project. After that first approach, Up-start began to establish project strategies and mechanisms of economic revenue.
7th of July 2013, Up-start opens in fund.it a crowdfunding campaign until July 27 to finance the project. The crowdfunding campaign is based on the IDEA, the renovation of a abandoned space, and not on a specific project.
9th of July 2013, a public meeting is created in order to make a collective brainstorming and gathering ideas from the neighbors themselves.
10th of July 2013, they start asking for artists to participate in the creation of the park.
11th of July 2013, they ask any artist Dublin to donate any kind of sculpture for the park.
15th of July 2013, opens up forms to submit a creative design for the park, any type of urban art intervention.
17th of July 2013, a lecture is given about the park project in Phantom 1052
18th of July 2013, is created in the own solar an inspiring show of what will happen there, aiming to raise more volunteers and more donations.
26th of July 2013, open up forms to submit Graffiti ideas for the park
27th of July 2013, the Crowdfunding project reaches 20,000 €
29th of July 2013, a Wish-List is presented to the neighborhood, asking for a list of utensils, tools and furniture that requires the park.
29th of July 2013, the work starts, the same day it starts the cleanup of the solar
1 of August 2013, begins to build the entire concrete surface and the foundation on which the metal structure would support.
8th of August 2013, they organize events like “table-quiz” where the donations are collected
10 th of August 2013, begins the planting of vegetation
12 th of August 2013, open up forms to act in theater
14 th of August 2013, open up forms to participate in the park as steward.
14 th of August 2013, starts to build the metal structure
15 th of August 2013, the works for the provision of water and electricity end.
17th of August was the “Plant Donation Day”
17th of August Trade School Dublin started to ask for teachers for workshops
17th of August started to place the textile roof
18th of August started to construct amphitheater
19th of August started to plant trees
19th of August started the artistic independent installations
22th of August the park opened
A crowdfunding campaing was created in fundit.ie to gather a high percentage of the funding, aprox 40% of the total amount.
This was possible because they created a system to attract people’s interests to involve and donate. In one way we have the previous installations and performances they run to create emotional relationships with the project and the place, thus motivating people to donate. For example, if you enjoyed the Street Feast you already know how much useful and fun could be the place if the place is suitable for urban use, therefore it is possible that memory makes you donate money to the project.
And in second place they designed a reward system. This system organized the donations in a scale and for each scale they created a gift according to a pre-established benefit, so that the more you give more you’ll benefit. A lot of agents were involved in this reward system to make it profitable, such as have local artists who donated their works to get turned into rewards to gather more and bigger donations, or besides that, reserved invitations to special activities.
The volunteer system was the most important part of the structure of the project, because without them, the project budget had been over 1.5M€ instead 80.000€.
This system was divided into 4 sub-parts : Volunteers for build the park, volunteers to assist the park, volunteers to teach in the tradeschool and volunteers for the office team. Even they would design a specific task if you have a special skill that they have not taken into account.
But what was the key to attract that huge amount of people?
As I understood, the way to gather large amount of volunteers is working with associations and collectives, and It’s not only about finding volunteers associations and ask them for volunteers. When you take the interest of a specific association or group of associations and they are agree to help in the project, then everyone who are involved and their near social network in that collective will be involved into the project.
For example, if you take the interest of an artists collective or group from Dublin because they will take profit of the project (for example, they will perform in the park), you are not only attracting the whole people who belongs to that collective, also you are attracting everyone who are interested in that this collective will take profit from the project in the near future.
Recycled, borrowed and rented stuff
Understanding the construction of the park as a temporary let you to work with a wider spectrum of mechanisms, for example, with borrowed stuff.
Besides using recycled furniture from other urban projects from the near areas, Up-Start created a “Wish list” where they wrote the whole list of things they need to finish the park, so it’s not necessary to donate that list of things or even worse, inflating the budget buying new stuff that will be without use in one month.
The collaborative design was the main important way to create a design concerned with the public needs, it means that the whole process of the design needs the feedback of delegations from neighboring to not lose any time the aims from the citizens.
But also, a collaborative design can born with a list of tools to stably the main objectives to achieve, for example open public meetings as they have done.
But it’s important to mention how they measured the park inner population.
As the project was developing and designing, they opened online request forms to find anybody wanted to, for example, perform in the amphitheater or maybe anybody who wanted to paint a graffiti. In this way, they were measuring and scaling each part of the park with a realtime feedback.
Hybridization of Uses
One of the keys for the success is that they don’ t made just a park to walk through it or just sit in there. They created a mixed program that would be able to enhance the attraction capabilities the place instead of just a park.
So that was the reason why we can find a children playground or an amphitheater, a bar, a garden…
The security of the place was one of the main problems of the Project because the park was full of furniture, artistic Works and a lot of valuable stuff, susceptible of being stolen.
To solve that, the only way was to hire a private company of security, fact that increased the cost of the project noticeably.
As Upstart said, was the most expensive thing in the whole process.
The fire regulations was other of the main troubles to solve, because as you can imagine, a plot filled with pallets could transform easily into a bonfire.
The Granby park was a big success. During a month, it harbor more than 100 activities and it’s estimated more than 40.000 visitors went to the park.
The project achieved to transform a derelict place into a knowledge incubator with the cross workshops thanks to the Trade School Dublin, but also, it worked as a place to develop knowledge because it was a place to test artistic interventions with the people’s feedback.
Besides the Trade School or the Artistic Interventions, are the Amphitheater that worked as a place for the people to express themselves, everybody could send a submission to make a lecture or every drama association or music band could take access to a place to perform in front of the neighbors as an audience.
The project has raised the awareness of the people about the importance of the community engagement to achieve big successes. Before the intervention, they had a lot of needs, like a children playground or a bar due to the urban typologies of buildings, and they solve their problem themselves with their own resources.
The project worked as an example of how powerful could be a project when collectives and communities engage together. That was the reason why up-start focused in various ways to create a strong community engagement between different collectives, even with people who don’t speak the local language.
How was this possible? How the project could attract different and unrelated collectives? Establishing a platform which create interests for these different demographic groups and attracting them but also, the importance to create a mechanism to articulate the task and the collectives, for example, one way to operate as they have done, is to divide the project into sub-projects and give each sub-project to a collective or group of collectives.
If there are people who doesn’t speak English, then gather and group them and give to them an independent part of the construction that they can manage by themselves.
The environmental benefit was not only to put green in the park, it was about how a neighborhood could create a green area only gathering plants from the neighbor’s donations. Also, when the park operational phase ended, applications were opened for people who wanted to move plants to other places to start new urban renovation processes of derelict spaces. “Take you park ride” was called the day which people take the plants into planters with wheels and roam the city to their new places.
There are two main success into the economic benefit aspect.
The first one was to achieve the building of the park without privatizing the park or transforming the park into a business, aiming to take the interests of private companies and their investments. That probably turned the project into something that depends on economical profit instead the neighbors needs.
It’s a big deal to achieve that amount of money only from a crowdfunding campaign, so they mixed it with money gathering from public administration but also from private companies getting to them interests to involve in that.
The other success is kind paradoxical.
As the public space improves, the housing rates raises, it means that the interest of real-state companies will be attracted to invest in the neighborhood and also the investments from the city council.But that was the same that happened before the construction bubble, if we transform the public space into a business thing, it’s susceptible to be abandoned as the moment as it turns into something unprofitable or without too much economical profit.
As I have seen, there are some highlight points of the project that have similarities with San Antón controversials: a neighborhood which has suffered changes in the urban policies that have led him to have a lot of empty and derelict spaces in their area, with a defined little groups of demographic communities but unconnected between them, as its happening with the third age population group.
But this is a good example to exploit the capabilities of each demographic group and articulate them in a common point with a list of mechanisms.
Also, this is a great example of how should be a process to deal with a project funded with crowdfunding system and volunteer forces.
For this reasons we can translate a lot of the strategies that we have seen here to the San Antón’s case to face so many controversies.
It’s clear that we have to work with a cross network of interests , trying to involve all of them with a specific strategies or maybe using the resources from ones to attract others.
And to not losing the common benefit, we have to create a selfmanagement system in the whole process of the project, from the designing to the operational phase, in order to make a public space by the citizens for the citizens.
And finally the temporality is another key to keep in mind, because as we know the actual empty plots on San Antón will be built in the near future, we must to think about temporary interventions, but also, a temporary intervention allows us to create more intense efforts and allow us to work with other mechanisms like borrowed or rented stuff.
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