AJ editor Kieran Long interviewed John Tuomey and Sheila O’Donnell after the presentation of their new project for The Photographers’ Gallery in London on 4 December. This is an extended version of the interview that appeared in the AJ on 13 December 2007.
Kieran Long: So what’s new, what’s coming up?
John Tuomey: Well we have a new social housing project that’s taking shape on site. That’s an interesting project actually..
KL: When’s that completed?
Sheila O’Donnell: It’s meant to be June but it won’t be– it’ll be July, August, September..
KL: And where is that?
SO’D: It’s in The Liberties in the centre of Dublin. It’s Dublin City Council social housing, what used to be called low-rise, high-density housing.
KL: Are there still opportunities to do much housing? There’s (already) a lot of interesting housing happening in Dublin.
JT: Not a lot for us. We are doing two social housing projects – one is on site, and the other is in design, but we’re also doing a really interesting apartment building for a private developer. So we’re doing three housing projects, one on site and two on the drawing boards. On site we also have a community centre in the Docklands, made in concrete, and that’s quite a nice building. That finishes in the summer as well, in June so I suppose that means July. Before the builders go on holiday at the end of July and that’s pretty well ‘it’, end of the year; they like to get everything finished before then really.
KL: Ah, so in the Docklands – whereabouts in the Docklands is it?
JT: It’s a great location – the Docklands is a big redevelopment area and just about one or two layers back from the commercial frontage of the Docklands – there’s a sector, bound by the railway tracks, which used to be dockers’ housing, I suppose – and it’s called East Wall. There’s about 1,800 two-storey houses there, lived in by ex-dockers, I suppose, and it’s a very strongly established community. And Docklands Development Authority has a relationship (with them) – a kind of community programme to keep contact and develop the new neighbourhood so as part of their policy they are building this community centre. It’s going to be a very nice building I think. It’s built around gardens for children and old people and sports and drama. And it has a little tower.
SO’D: Very small, just one room up on the tower. But the clients – who are the local guys – were saying “We want our building to be high, we want it to stand out against all this commercial development in the Docklands and we want it to be high!”. So we said, what’s the brief – a childrens’ day care centre, an old people’s day centre and a sports hall – and we were thinking it doesn’t really sound like it wants to be all that high! So we said they all had to go on the ground floor. But then we came to the idea of the tower and they’re very happy with that – it’s six storeys but it looks higher because it’s only one room – and the rest is courtyard building.