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Collective Futures at Seán McDermott Street

QUB Studio 5 – Open Heart City – CoLab81-7

The following are proposals by Queens University MArch 1 Students for contingent and diverse futures on a contested site of conscience in north inner city Dublin. The site, which is located within the historic district of the Monto, housed the last Magdalene Laundry to close in Ireland (1996).

This is the only such site to remain in state-ownership.

The studio began with a personal study of the physical place, each student establishing their own territory.  From a close reading of the site’s present particular conditions each student placed a small structure, intervening in and making an addition to the existing fabric, proposing a new layer in the sites rich archaeology. Building upon this nascent attitude, and informed by a comprehensive body of work completed by the Open Heart City Collective, each student developed a brief in response to the rich culture of the broader neighbourhood.  Together the proposals can be read as a collage that assembles a heterogeneous tapestry of old and new, past and possible futures.

This page documents the students semester’s work and collective drawings completed over the summer of 2020 in conversation with CoLab81-7.

Fragments as Artefact

Mapping Site Observations


Nicola Moran


Revealing the remains and historic layering of past uses on site

The ‘Community Gardens’ project began by peeling back the historic layers of the site, referencing various maps from 1829 to present day. The careful process of analysis through the modern lens reveals the true nature of what we see today. The proposal developed without symbolising a specific time but by allowing each layer of history to blend and interact with one another. Through the study of maps and ruins of buildings bygone, the layout of gardens and allotments emerge. (Nicola Moran)



Zoé Bertel


Representation of time through decay on Railway street to define old and new

The ‘Collection & Exhibition’ is an exploration of light, circulation and mediation between interior and exterior environments. These additions and alterations of built fabric form a continuation of the existing, blurring the lines between inside and out. In doing this, the proposal creates intriguing and flexible spaces that house collections and exhibitions. (Zoe Bertel)



John Moran


Identification of architectural tension between the existing buildings

Producing architecture is the incarnation of intention. On Sean MacDermott Street, contradiction is embedded within the framework at all scales and challenges incoming proposals to reject or accept this nature. The Workers’ Club accepts, exploring the relationships between seemingly contradictory art styles, materials and methods of construction, setting the precedent for new conversations between those who experience its spatiality. (John Moran)



Anna Crew


Re-appropriating the sites spatial language as a performative landscape

The proposal offers a performative landscape that permits the production of space specific to a range of performance. The heavy brick structure is fundamentally an armature, upon which screens, fabric and structures may be erected to produce performance space and control the acoustic condition and the quality of the light. Spaces of self-expression are formed and controlled by the exertion of agency upon textile and space, and in doing so the historic spatial language of the site is re-appropriated, acknowledging the site’s past, but perhaps also providing an opportunity for healing and dialogue. (Anna Crew)



Czarinah Malate


Utilising sequence of space to enclose a haven for both pupils and staff

The Nursery is an informed sequence of spaces that creates an empowering environment in a new chapter for the local community. The building utilises brick as a heavy material to conform with the surrounding context. However, within the spatial arrangement, the nursery encloses an architectural haven: a central courtyard and gathering space purposed for both pupils and teachers. This single room is dominant in internal scale, but it is made from a lighter timber to create a calmer atmosphere at the centre of the scheme. (Czarinah Malate)



Bridget Bale


Preserving the history of the Magdalene Laundry as a response to surface

The project proposes an archive that preserves the history of the Magdalene Laundry. Each ‘room’ varies in both volume and degree of enclosure, controlling lighting as well as intimacy of space. The variation is created through the manipulation of envelope, and, in the reuse of existing building fabric; the control of the internal built elements within which we share space. These decisions create a sense of re-calibration as users pass through or by the building, which intentionally addresses the troubled history of the site, altering perspectives and beginning new discussions. (Bridget Bale)


The studio’s work is rich with possibility and interpretations, it is informative but speculative. We have presented individual projects collaged to create two versions of multiple futures. The work gives us the opportunity to look to the future as we establish a language to remember the past, so we can look with new eyes again at the present.

The studio concluded with a conversational mapping exercise, to propose a methodology for making future cities thinking at the scale of its rooms.

Individual projects were collaged to make ‘new city fabric’. By working collectively the studio could tackle the scale and complexity posed by the site while embracing diverse personal observations of the topographic and geo-spatial character of the place. These maps can be used as a conceptual tool to propose a collective future plan for Seán McDermott Street.

QUB Studio 5

Collective City Plan

Open Heart City