ABCD: Artists’ Building Cooperative Dublin

ABCD is a project initiated by 23 professional artists looking to creatively address the current crisis in housing and studio space in Dublin. We are a multigenerational co-operative brought together by our need to provide sustainable live-work spaces.

We propose to develop a purpose-built building. This will comprise of a mix of apartment types with artists studios attached. We are looking to build on residual site in or close to Dublin city centre that could support at least 2000 square metres of floor space. We will carry this out with the collaboration and guidance of an existing approved housing body. Trough tried and trusted solutions used in many of Europe’s cultural capitals we as artists can proactively respond to existing housing problems and contribute a vibrancy to our surrounding communities (see Appendix). Three-quarters of our members qualify for affordable housing, the remainder for social housing. The project will, therefore, be funded through a mix of private and public funds. Initial advice from our quantity surveyor places the total budget excluding site costs, VAT and fees in the region of €3 million.

In her Introduction to Culture 2025 discussion document, Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs said that: If we want to protect and promote our Culture and encourage new cultural forms to flourish, we must aim high and chart out a vision for the future. We believe our project shows vision and that our considerable cultural capital will help create a vibrant, diverse city. ‘Te cultural and creative industries can be powerful drivers of individual and community well-being, and of economic success. An EU study published last year demonstrated that cultural and creative industries are among the EU’s biggest employers, generating 4.2% of EU GDP, far higher than, for instance, the telecommunications industry.’ This live-work space creates a win-win situation where an existing area benefits from an increase in local creativity and where the artist residents obtain affordable living and working space. This would allow them to remain in Dublin and continue to contribute to the cultural and economic life of the capital.

The most recent statistics presented by Visual Artists Ireland state that nearly 70% of Irish artists earn less than €10,000 per annum from their creative work. A high proportion of these artists have more than one occupation but still earn only between €10,000-€25,000 per annum. As low-income earners, often working on precarious short-term contracts, they are naturally precluded from getting on ‘the property ladder’ and securing their own home. In the current housing crisis artists are also increasingly pushed out from their rented houses in areas they have helped to regenerate. They are faced with limited access to city-based living and studio spaces. For many artists, this lack of affordable housing poses a real threat of homelessness. Te ABCD members have been long-term contributors to the cultural fabric of the city as educators, activists, and practicing artists. They have worked within and responded to local communities and the city's civic spaces.  This wealth of experience will undoubtedly be shared with their new neighbourhood.

By developing this project we aim to both address our own housing and professional needs and to bring about a space which actively contributes and engages with the wider city. ABCD seeks to find practical solutions for the artists involved and to provide a model from which further solutions towards housing and the creative life of the city can be addressed. We propose to launch an open call for additional participants in Winter 2016, which is expected to be heavily subscribed. Subject to the success of this first initiative we hope to build 3 or 4 buildings intending to provide long-term and secure housing as live-work spaces for up to 100 artists and their families in Dublin.

Open Architects & Dominic Stevens Architects

Dolphins Barn, Dublin 8