Long-time readers of rabble will know we love to draw attention to Dublin’s architecture and great architects past and present. Therefore, when we found out that the IFI were running an event called Dublin Plays Itself alongside the Irish Architecture Foundation, we were definitely interested. Patrick McCusker caught up with Sunniva O’Flynn, one of the tour guides, to find out more.
How would you describe the event?
Dublin Plays Itself is an event which combines archival film and walking tours of Dublin to create this fascinating experience where your eyes are really opened to the city and archival film.
The project is a collaboration between the Irish Film Institute and the Irish Architecture Foundation. We realised that with our film collection we had a record of the buildings of Dublin and the architecture of Dublin – and we also had a record of the people of Dublin and how they conduct themselves and go about their daily lives. So we combined that resource with the expertise of the Irish Architecture Foundation. They really shine a light on the film footage, but they also take us out onto the streets.
When we’re on the street with a group of walkers, we really experience the expert knowledge of the architects, but also the film footage. It’s not just nostalgic – although there is a bit of that – but there is an insight into the city and how it has evolved over the last hundred and twenty years.
We’re really interested here at Rabble in how certain visionary architects – for example Herbert Simms and his social housing- have had a genuinely transformative impact on the lives of Dubliners. Are there any architects you’ll focus on?
Well, there will be sections where architecture historian Merlo Kelly will be talking about the changes in the city in the 40s and 50s, when quite a lot of people had to start moving out – and we will talk quite a lot about Herbert Simms, as well as a lot of buildings that were destroyed in that time. We’ll have quite a lot of footage of these changes, as well as some very distressing footage of tenements collapsing.
We love to write about buildings which people walk past and ignore every day, without knowing there’s a really interesting story behind them. Will the event be drawing attention to any such buildings that’re easily forgotten but are really interesting?
I find that Merlo Kelly’s perspective, even on the street furniture that we walk past every day, really opens your eyes to the city. There may be buildings we walk past every day that’re invisible to us because we walk past them every day.
For example, the AFI is currently housed in a premises on Bachelor’s Walk where very few of our group have ever been before. Their screening room is practically subterreanean – but it’s at eye level with the Liffey, and we’ll show films about the Liffey and how it forms an artery to the city. We’ll also see a lot of films about how the buildings along the Quays have been neglected.
The films show a Dublin that was. Older viewers might respond more to the footage from the 40s and 50s of a Dublin they remember, whereas for younger viewers it might be outside their living memory – but they’re seeing how the city was animated. But the footage will go well back – we’ll have films from the 20s and 30s, and even some from before the 1900s.
It’s quite extraordinary to see how different the city was then.
Dublin Plays Itself is running on June 9th in the IFI.