Sean O'Casey Community Centre, Dublin

This is a project that  we worked on with architects O'Donnell and Tuomey in 2006-2007. The building is a community centre in Dublin's East Wall area - -a very urban part of the city - that it is punctuated by a series of small internal open spaces. Our concept was to fill these spaces with small patches of woodland, and we took our own home territory, which is the woods around the Devil's Glen in Ashford, Co Wicklow, as our inspiration. We tried to imagine that thhe woodland was almost pre-existing, and that the building had been dropped into the plants: we used a couple of fallen tree, an ancient upturned tree root, even handfuls of leaf litter to get the correct mix of seeds and insects.

These photos were taken on a brief visit back to the site in 2016, approximately nine years after planting. The building and the gardens are well loved and utilised, and it was a real pleaseure to see them. The woodlands seem to have taken on a life of their own and each is a tiny microcosm, a sort of full-sized terrarium.

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Great metalwork on the gate, leading you into the first mini woodland, past birch, oak and cherry, with an understorey of spindle and sedges.

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The main entrance area has views through to all the open spaces, and the centre has cleverly brought plants indoors too, blurring the edges between indoors and out.


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There is a really pleasant atmosphere in the building, and the gardens infuse the space with the peace and quietness of a dense woodland. It's as if the building was built around them. It's all helped of course by the wonderful architecture: the tall windows, the vertical wooden glazing bars, the warmth of the brick floor.

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If you go into one of the outdoor spaces there is a real sense of calm: grasses, groundcovers, mosses, birds... the sense of each space being a mini, self-contained world is quite intense.

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