The people behind the city's newest - and coolest - festival

Amy Keogh, Architect and Creative Director of Design Pop. Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision.

Next weekend, six quirky little ‘pavilions’ with an added ‘edible’ component will pop up overnight around the Cork city, the most visual aspects of Design POP (May 17-19), a new festival of design which the organisers hope will go on to become an annual fixture in the city’s creative calendar.

The pavilions and accompanying installations are the fruits of collaborations between six designers and six local food and beverage producers, endeavouring to create bespoke constructions that reflect and support the ethos of each of the food brands and, in choosing to site the constructions in public spaces, draw in the engagement of a local populace certain to be charmed by these temporary little spaces, which become a de facto food trail around the Leeside over the course of the weekend, offering stimulus for both belly and brain.

Born and raised in Monkstown, Cork, Amy McKeogh graduated first in her year in Architectural Studies in Cork, in 2014, going on to secure a highly prestigious placement with Dublin-based firm Heneghan Peng (HP), one of Ireland’s most progressive architectural firms.

“I was always interested in architecture,” recalls Amy.

My mother always remembers a drawing competition in my school when I was in fifth or sixth class and while everyone else was doing snowmen, I was doing a church.

"She knew she had an architect on her hands fairly early on.

“I knew fairly early on that it was a creative profession — it’s why I like this whole pavilion idea, it is very creative — and very immediate, the ideas are realised in a comparatively short space of time. I worked on the National Gallery project the whole time I was with HP and it still wasn’t finished by the time I moved on.”

After HP, McKeogh moved on to a large commercial London firm to work on a case study, a requirement for becoming fully qualified as a chartered architect, and, while there, encountered the internationally-renowned Clerkenwell Design Week, Britain’s leading independent design festival with three days of exhibits and events spread around the local area of Clerkenwell, in London.

“It was my first time experiencing it and there were a few moments and events that were really special. In our local park where we used to go for lunch, a beautiful installation just popped up and it was amazing to see the vibrancy of the thing, the older generation and the kids, all interacting and playing with it, it was such a lovely experience, all these beautiful, colourful installations in an urban context, it was just such a fun week in this gritty part of London.

"Seeing the amount of people, the atmosphere and what it brought to the area, I thought, that’s the kind of thing that could really work in Ireland.

“And I thought Cork would be the perfect place to do it. Obviously being from Cork, I knew the place well but Dublin is that bit busier and things can get lost or fly under the radar and Cork is really good at embracing things like this that happen in the city, events like the film festival, the Midsummer festival and, of course, the Long Table dinner, on the South Mall. All of those things, Cork people really engage with and celebrate so why wouldn’t I want to bring it to my home town.”

It is the synergies arising from transdisciplinary collaboration, between designers and food producers, that add a unique local element to Design POP, with McKeogh admitting she is ‘a food lover but no expert and an impatient cook’, came at it more from a design perspective.

“To me, it was a design festival but the food connection came about through the process of thinking about what really represents Cork, what do Cork people really engage with and developed more and more and as the food producers began collaborating with the designers, it gave the pavilion designs so much more substance.

"It wasn’t because I loved food as much as design, it was probably a more pragmatic strategy to draw in more people, to get more people interested by drawing on a strong local interest but the more and more it has developed, the more I realise that the two marry together really well.”

Collaborators include sculptor Alex Pentek, who produced the iconic sculpture, Kindred Spirits, sited in Midleton and celebrating the financial donation of the Choctaw Nation tribe to the Irish people during the famine, and Cork-born printmaker and illustrator Shane O’Driscoll and McKeogh’s own Fior Studios, a Dublin-based architecture and design collective.

“The designer talks to the food producer about their brand and what they want the space to be, how they want to communicate with the public. What sort of atmosphere do you want? How do you want people to interact with it?

I want the public to know these are representations of the ethos of the food producer and that is represented in the designs.

"And all bar one will have the food producer offering foods to taste.”

As well as the physical constructions and collaborations, there is a ‘cerebral’ element to Design POP, including a series of talks, panel discussions and workshops, along with design and art exhibitions.

Largely based in Thompson House, it will also host a small food market for the weekend and, while it is naturally skewed towards McKeogh’s own area of expertise in the fields of architecture and design, there is also a healthy plank of food programming including Form, Function + Fresh Produce, featuring nationally renowned Cork-based chefs Denis Cotter (Cafe Paradiso), Takashi Miyazaki (Miyazaki, Ichigo Ichie) and Rory O’Connell (Ballymaloe Cookery School) and, emphasising the very all-encompassing public nature of the festival, the programme also includes Children’s arts and crafts workshops and an ‘Older Adults Tea Party’.

“Cork has a reputation for innovation and creativity in the area of design and I would like Design POP to celebrate that. Even if it rains, it will still go ahead but now we just have to hope for some good weather to show off the pavilions at their best!”

The Collaborators

Location: Emmet Place

Designer: Shane O’Driscoll

Food Producer: Banana Melon

Cork native, Shane O’Driscoll is an Irish Printmaker and visual artist who practices mainly in screen printing and his work can be found in The National Gallery of Ireland and Áras an Uachtaráin. Banana Melon Kitchen is a plant-based Cork company run by food stylist and chef Suzanna Melinn.

Location: Cornmarket Street

Designer: Alex Pentek

Food Producer: Applebee Bakes

Alex Pentek is fast developing an international reputation for creating large scale site specific work and gallery based works on temporary mediums and sound performances.

Applebee Bakes is a small scale production bakery located in Douglas, Cork, owned and operated by Anna Forde and producing unique homemade, handcrafted signature cakes.

Location: Bishop Lucey Park

Designer: Conor Merriman

Food Producer: SOMA

Conor Merriman is a freelance illustrator and designer, who has worked all over Ireland and in Europe.

SOMA Coffee Company is a high-grade speciality Coffee Roaster and Cafe, based in Cork city and run by siblings Irene and Damien Twohig, along with Alex Bruce.

Location: Elizabeth Fort

Designer: Fíor Studios

Food Producer: All Full Up

Fíor studios is a multidisciplinary design collective of architects, graphic designers, illustrators and designers based in the fine arts industry.

All Full Up is owned and operated by Noretta Brosnan and produces organic hand pressed nut milks.

Location: Nano Nagle Place

Designer: Alan Macilwraith, JCA Architects

Food Producer: Good Day Deli

JCA Architects is a broad-based practice incorporating architects, project managers, architectural conservation consultants, architectural technologists and graphic artists with supporting administration providing comprehensive and rapid design and execution process.

Good Day Deli is restaurant run by Cork-born Clare Condon and her New Zealand partner Kristin Makirere, providing a menu based on using sustainable foods and championing the environment and community.

Location: The Boardwalk

Designer: Luke Hickson, Meitheal Design

Food Producer: My Goodness

Meitheal Design was established in 2003 and includes experienced and younger Irish and international architects, planners, project managers and secondary discipline specialists. Originally from Sydney, Luke Hickson moved to Ireland and is now a strong contributor to the Irish creative design community.

My Goodness is a health-focused business specialising in vegan, raw, sugar-free, gluten-free and fermented probiotic products and is owned and operated by Texan Virginia O’Gara and her Donegal-raised husband Donal O’Gara.

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