Earlier this year, we joined forces with St. Patrick’s Festival to re-imagine public spaces in our capital city for the I Love My City programme. As part of this Barry Sheehan, Head of Design at the Dublin Institute of Technology, created a thought-provoking outdoor installation that aimed to provide a snapshot in time, reflecting only the here and now. We asked Barry to tell us more about his design process and the challenges of building and installing a huge outdoor mirror in the centre of Dublin, and to share some of his sketches and process shots. Read on to find out how they did it.
In November 2014, DIT was asked to submit a proposal for an installation as part of the I Love My City programme of the 2015 Saint Patrick’s Festival.
The theme for festival was ‘CELEBRATE NOW’ and the brief stated;
This theme is derived from the idea that we as people sometimes forget to focus on the here and now, we have a natural tendency towards reflecting on the past or wondering about the future - in 2015 St. Patrick’s Festival will embrace ‘nowness’, asking people to live in the now, to savour the moment!
There was little other detail but the brief went on;
ID2015 has identified a series of curatorial themes such as ‘Sense of Place’, ‘Sustainability’ and ‘Well-being’ and we encourage applications to incorporate one of these curatorial themes into your “celebratory” design proposal.
What would celebrate now, with a sense of place and would make people stop and appreciate the city in a different way?
And be in place by March 17th with a very tight budget?
Celebrating Now: The Concept
What is now?
A mirror provides that snapshot in time, reflecting only the here and now... But so much for ‘nowness’, what about the “Sense of Place”?
As well as reflecting the moment, the mirror would reflect the people and the surroundings, the city, the crowd, the parent with the child on their shoulder. And who in this era wouldn’t want a selfie of all of that?
The exact place was not identified…it could be anywhere in Dublin City Centre.
It needed a name, and I like stupid puns, so it became Reflect Yourself.
Time to sketch through some ideas, in my lined notebook, usually full of boring calculations and meeting notes. By the 28th November the main elements were in place. But the submission date for proposals of Friday 5th December was approaching.
Sketches wouldn’t cut it, time to talk to Richard May and Tomas Barisauskas, final year students at DIT, brilliant at digital imagery, to create the visuals.
Ever timely, I briefed them on the afternoon of December 4th. They nailed it.
Go ahead was given on January 16th, two months before launch. The site was to be the Dubhlinn Gardens at Dublin Castle, managed by the Office of Public Works.
The location created implications. The approval of ID2015, Saint Patrick’s Festival 2015, DIT and the OPW would all have to be obtained.
And the installation would have to be larger. Otherwise it would look ridiculous in the wide-open gardens.
The choice of location meant that the unit would have to be professionally engineered, built and erected. It couldn’t be knocked up in a shed like the floats of the past and my original thoughts.
Designing and Making
Garland Consultancy agreed to engineer the unit and the project engineer, James McGinley, persuaded the family firm, Henry McGinley & Sons in Milford, Donegal to build it. RFL Steel agreed to supply the Steelwork. All of this was done for free.
Like all designs the sketching is the easy part. The detailed working out took a huge amount of time and input from Garlands, all to achieve an elegant solution.
We went to Donegal to see the unpainted installation in its framed state. But we would not know if the Perspex and mirrored panels would fit until we arrived on site.
We planned to build a 2.5 tonne, 5.5 metres tall, 6.9 metres wide installation, without foundations, in a in a public park on a Bank Holiday weekend, in full public view in one day. And we did. Phew!
To quote again from the brief:
The aim of this project is to reimagine a public space - bringing people, energy, activity and innovation to places that people walk by/through every day - thereby encouraging people to stop and take a moment out of their busy day to look at and appreciate the city in a different way.
Have a look at the photos, I think we achieved the objective.
Barry Sheehan, April 2015
Design: Barry Sheehan, Dublin School of Creative Arts
Visualisation: Tomas Barisauskas, Richard May
Technical Support: Terry Maher, Liam Sharkey
Engineering: Brian Kavanagh, James McGinley
Thanks to: Dobrawa Brach-Kaluzna, Kieran Corcoran, Dave Cummins, Celine Kennedy, David Kirk, Susanna Lagan, Elizabeth McGinley, John McGinley, Jimmy Ward, Keith White, Wurth, John Vero.