Architecture Student Róisin Hayes, writes for Motley on the importance of fighting dereliction. Photo Cred @ Frank O’Connor.
As I walk through the city, I see gaps. Ruptures, cavities and craters in our city centre are becoming an increasing concern. These cavities opened one by one in the last number of years and like a disease on skin they are spreading. They are left unaddressed, untreated and uncared for. I pass at least 4 cases on my 5-minute walk to college each morning. Walking down Barrack Street I often stop to examine one. It is an average looking house at first glance, painted blue. However, on further examination I notice the chipping of the paint, and then the tightly drawn blinds inside. Next, I notice the cracks in the bottom right windowpane and the door boarded firmly up. I look up to see that the roof falls in right down the middle. There are slates collapsing in and hanging off the exposed water-logged rafters. This particular case has been infected a while and a tree has begun to spread its branches through it. It has been infected long enough for the leaves to reach through the hole in the roof and escape towards the sky. This disease trails its way around the city, leaving stones loose and timber rotting, from Shandon Street all the way to the Docklands and further still. Dereliction is the name of this disease in Cork City.
Cork based activists, Frank O’ Connor and Jude Sherry have identified over 700 derelict or vacant properties in the city of Cork. These properties include houses, factory buildings, offices and shops. When a building is left derelict, run down or uninhabited, it kills a street. Instead of flourishing communities, neighbourliness and sharing, we are left with cold shells between houses. With an ongoing housing and cost of living crisis, it comes as a shock that so many properties are allowed to be left vacant. The identified properties could be houses. They could be community centres or parks. They could be childcare facilities or libraries or art galleries. Instead of vacant tears in our urban fabric, we could have a thriving city full of pockets of community. We could have a city that feels safe and lived in.
On Wednesday the 9 th of November, UCC Architecture society are attempting to fill these gaps. In a 24-hour brainstorm, architecture students will partake in an active form of protest in which we propose alternative lives for the derelict buildings of Cork City. We will imagine the buildings inhabited, full of life and visualise Cork as the beautiful, vibrant city we believe it can be.