Co-designing ‘future-oriented’ neighbourhoods to enhance the possibilities for positive ageing in Ireland
“While I still have my brain about me I want to be contributing to the world that I live in. To be able to do that you need to be able to love the place where you live. We need to know that there’s a process, that there’s a place where we can feel that we can give our best. We’re all going to get old. That’s something for all of us to think about, even when we’re 30.”
Annie Curbelo Lang, Irish Times
Reimagining Elderhood explores the future housing needs of people in mid-life in Ireland, and the role of community-led initiative and architecture in providing innovative responses to this opportunity and challenge.
The project sets out to explore the following questions:
- What kind of places do we need to live well as we age, and how might our neighbourhoods be modified to support ageing well?
- Can we take steps in mid-life to imagine the places we would like to live in as we age, and to work together to create them?
- How can architects be ‘agents of change’ and facilitators of new approaches and thinking about how we live?
Following an Open Call launched in 2022, three successful Irish-based architects were selected to engage with their local communities to investigate these questions. The goal was to stimulate ideas and collectively imagine the ideal environment for positive and empowered ageing.
Read on to learn about the three Reimagining Elderhood projects, the architects and communities behind them, and the work which emerged from the process!
Reimagining Elderhood is led by SOA Research CLG and funded by The Arts Council.
With residents of the housing estates of Balbriggan, Co. Dublin
In Balbriggan, Co. Dublin, Laura Carroll and Ciarán Molumby of Islander Architects have been working with residents in the suburban housing estates. They chose to engage with two groups in particular – the local Mens Shed and Transition Year students from Loreto Secondary School – to collaborate on developing a vision for a shared space.
Laura and Ciarán both grew up in housing estates and are fascinated with the successes and pitfalls of housing developments, their territory, privacy, personalisation, play and communality. Islander’s process includes creating games to help communities find connections between users, needs & opportunities in an informal setting.
STUDIO IDIR ARCHITECTS
With residents of the Ballyhackamore neighbourhood, East Belfast
Studio Idir is a Belfast-based practice specialising in housing and community-focused engagement. ‘Idir’, the Irish word for ‘between’, reflects a philosophy of collaboration. It celebrates the meeting of difference – such as contrasting materialities, old and new, inside and out, and negotiating the unique values and ideas that each individual brings to the table.
With the local community in Ballyhackamore, Aisling Rusk and Aisling Madden of Studio Idir are exploring how the area’s amenities could be harnessed to improve it’s potential to empower Elderhood within a multi-generational neighbourhood, including the potential for adaptation of existing housing stock to better enable older people.
AILBHE CUNNINGHAM ARCHITECT
With a community of musicians in Coal Quay, Cork City
From a base at the recently opened Plugd Records on Cornmarket St. in Cork City, Ailbhe Cunningham is working with the local independent music community to Re-imagine Elderhood via a mixture of walking tours, musical performance and co-design workshops. Cornmarket Street is one of the few surviving networks of independent businesses and homes on the central island of Cork City.
Ailbhe is is a Cork-based architect, interested in the complex dynamics shaping our environments. A co-creator of TEST SITE project, she is deeply committed to nature and community engagement, recognising the necessity of collaboration to envision resilient, future urban landscapes.
ARCHITECT MENTOR BIOS
ANTHONY ENGI MEACOCK (ASSEMBLE)
Anthony Engi Meacock is a founding partner of Assemble Studio, a multi-disciplinary collective working across architecture, design and art.
Founded in 2010 to undertake the Cineroleum, their first self-built project, Assemble has since delivered a diverse and award-winning body of work, whilst retaining a democratic, co-operative and self-initiated working method. This approach enables built, social and research-based work at a variety of scales.
Assemble were awarded the 2015 Turner Prize for their long-term collaboration with the Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust in Liverpool, an ongoing community-led project to rebuild previously the derelict Granby neighbourhood. Assemble’s self-initiated and collaborative design process, and the community-led approach to reclaiming the Granby neighbourhood for its residents, are inspiring examples for the Reimagining Elderhood project.
Anthony is mentoring Studio Idir’s project in Ballyhackamore.
DOUGAL SHERIDAN & DEIRDRE MCMENAMIN (LiD)
Dougal and Deirdre are directors of LiD Architecture, an architecture practice who have developed methods of participatory design and public engagement to facilitate close engagement with communities and stakeholders.
Through their work with Nimble Spaces in Kilkenny, LiD have developed the ‘Enabling Space Game’ as a tool for design collaboration and spatial articulation. The game facilitates mapping of shared and private space, a process key to adapting and developing future spatial arrangements for anyone wishing to imagine new and community-oriented ways of living.
Emerging from the Nimble Spaces project, LiD are architects of the Inclusive Neighbourhoods project in Callan, Co. Kilkenny. Part social housing, part private, 3 new neighbourhoods have been co-designed here via innovative participatory processes, exploring the potential of shared space within housing clusters.
Dougal and Deirdre are mentoring Islander Architects throughout their project in Balbriggan.
INKA DROHN (ARCHID)
Inka Drohn is a Berlin-based architect, urban planner and facilitator. Founder of archid, her passion is to inspire and empower groups of people to take charge of creating their own environment. Inka has instigated, cofounded, and co-designed with residents a range of cooperative housing and Baugruppe projects in Germany, including the building she lives in at Suedwestsohne, built on a vacant urban plot in Friedrichshain.
Inka also founded NIWo eV, a non-profit association for integrated housing, which offers cohousing space and assisted living for people with physical disabilities. NIWo’s apartment forms the 1st floor of Südwestsohne, offering 5 residents an integrated home in the heart of Berlin.
Inka’s participative design process, and the multi-generational community-led approach to creating Südwestsohne, is an inspiring example for Reimagining Elderhood.
Inka is the mentor to Ailbhe Cunningham’s project in Cork City.