What makes Cork, Cork? It’s different for everyone. The people? The jargon, like? The Echo Boy? Tanora? The train out of it?
What’s universarally shared by all in a city, the very essence of the place, is in the bricks and mortar. The spaces and places. The soul of the city — of any city — can be felt in the architecture of it.
Celebrating the best architecture in the city while generating a discussion on the role of a high-quality built environment in our day-to-day lives is the aim of Open House Cork, which returns for its second year.
Drawing together discussions, workshops, tours, and free public access to over 20 buildings, the festival embraces large-scale public buildings such as the Glucksman Gallery and the redeveloped St Angela’s School, to a number of private houses. Indeed, so popular were the visits to homes last year that this element of the programme has expanded.
Danny Holland, chair of Open House Cork, explains.
“The plan was always for the festival to be an annual event,” he said. “Last year’s event highlighted in particular the popularity of buildings that people didn’t get to see often, and visits to private homes were very popular. Of all building projects, a home is the thing that people can relate to the best. It would be the most universally experienced project. All of us have a fascination with other people’s homes. It is also the building project that people are most likely to take on themselves."
“For this year’s programme, we have tried to improve on the positive aspects of the first festival. The programme is tighter and more focused, and the buildings involved have been more arranged in clusters to facilitate people getting the maximum experience from the events.
“We hope to enhance people’s enjoyment of the buildings. Tours will be given from architects and others with a design background. We would also try to have the architect who worked on the project to talk about the work and the design ethos.”
The origins of Open House are in London, where the first festival started in the early 1990s. It has now spread to 30 cities worldwide, and all follow the ethos behind the original event. “Their model is that all the events in the festival are free, and the emphasis of the events is design-led,” says Danny.
The Cork event is run almost entirely by a core group of volunteers who have worked in their spare time to establish the festival. A series of walking tours will run across the city for the weekend, including an architectural trail of city-centre pubs, a look at the city’s 20th century architecture, and a docklands walking tour. An exhibition by architecture students in the city on the theme of ‘Space and Place: Interpreting the city and its buildings’ will run for the weekend, while architecture lecturer Jim Harrison will also lead a sketching tour along MacCurtain St aimed at anyone with an interest in its rich mix of buildings.
The opening night launch will take place on Friday, September 30 at The Atrium, Cork City Hall, with speakers to include architects John McLaughlin and James O’Donovan, who collaborated on the design of the Irish Pavilion for the Venice Biennale 2014. But Danny is keen to emphasise that “while the festival is about the built environment and the importance of good design, this festival is for non-architects.
“We want to make the festival as accessible as possible, and a big emphasis is on family-friendly events. The Glucksman Gallery in UCC is holding a workshop for children, and there is also a book reading in the City Library. We want all the events to be fun, and to show that you can look at design in different ways.
“The intention for the festival is to highlight the beautiful and diverse architecture we have in abundance across the city, and the people who help design and build it. We all should care about the quality of the buildings within the city — this is what makes Cork, Cork.”