Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Open House Dublin 2012

The other volunteers and I outside Number 11 (No. 11 facebook page)

I'd only returned from Venice when my friend Sarah reminded that Open House Dublin was taking place October 5th to 7th. I had hoped to get involved, but I wasn't sure if I'd be here for it or not. So with a couple of days to spare, I asked to volunteer. I was placed on Government Buildings (Upper Merrion St) on Saturday, and in the North Georgian Quarter (North Great George's Street) on the Sunday.

This was the seventh year of Open House Dublin, and each year more buildings open their doors. Open House is Ireland's largest Architectural festival, running annually, part of the Architectural Festival Family worldwide which includes Chicago, London, Lisbon, Helsinki and Dublin. Institutions and houses with a remarkable architectural history open their doors to the public for the weekend, with guided tours led by the owners or professionals who volunteer their time for the weekend. It's a rare chance to see inside some of these buildings, many of which are private residences.

Number 11 North Great George's Street (centre)

On the Sunday, I was thrilled to be placed in the North Georgian Quarter of the city. This handsome street of houses was mostly built in the mid to late eighteenth century, and was once the most affluent area of the city, until fashionable society moved to the south of the city (beyond the River Liffey).

Piano nobile floor of No. 11

18th century Murano glass chandelier

The dolls are only a fifth of the collection of one of the owners' aunts, they make for a quirky decorative feature in the main entertaining room

18th century stucco work by Robert West, painstakingly restored by the owners. At the time of restoration (20+ years ago) there existed no expertise for restoring stuccowork, so they set up workshops in the basement and completed it themselves.

One of the many wonderful features of this house is the amount of objects that have been salvaged, from skips in the 1980s, when these things were of little value in a period of rapid modernisation. The houses themselves would have been in a djsregarded throughout the twentieth century, until people started buying and restoring these houses from the 1970s onward. These objects on the wall chronicle a history of a changed Dublin.

The fanlight above the door would originally have been on the front door of a Georgian building, this too was rescued from a skip.

Original working lock and key, these houses would largely have been used as tenements in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, housing dozens of families, so its incredible that these survive in this condition.

Back window looking out onto the stunning garden

Graffiti dating from 1774, you can make out a crudely inscribed name "Cormac", the name and hand suggest this person was educated in a hedge school. The other name is written in script, suggesting a higher level of education attained by this person. The owners didn't discover the graffiti until they had removed the old wallpaper and actually painted over it.

The owners mostly live on the second floor, and in the converted attic. This is their private dining room. The graffiti is located near the door, to the left.

View of North Great Georges Street

The house's interior, possesses an eccentric Victorian influence. In their day, when furniture, carpets and fittings would have been extortionately expensive in the years before the industrial revolution, house decoration was far more austere and in the best possible 'taste'. As John, the owner, said, our view of these houses and their real functions is affected by Downton Abbey, which is a fallacy.

The theme of this year's festival was "Architecture Alive!", and from my experience, these buildings did come alive with the enthusiasm of their owners, you felt like a privileged guest. With my pictures, I hope to capture the eclecticism of the house, it truly feels like a home, adorned with objects the owners have carefully collected over the years, making their home comfortable and enabling the house to continue its life.

The house is available to hire for private functions, weddings and photoshoots, they have a website at Number 11 Dublin.

Read more:
Open House Dublin
North Great George's Street: An Architectural History
Hedge Schools
11 Heaven/North Great George's Street


  1. These photos are wonderful, Zoe! I'm thinking of a time-period a little later, but the house reminds me of the dinner party house in Joyce's "The Dead" a lot! Would love to visit these houses myself sometime!