No Vacancy

Sick of seeing so many empty and unused buildings around Dublin? So are these guys....

By: John Mahon

No Vacancy

Sick of seeing so many empty and unused buildings around Dublin? So are these guys.

28th September 2016

Dublin City has an awkward relationship with vacant spaces. Housing and arts groups have been crying out for usable and affordable space yet the city is riddled with empty buildings.

Developers are happy to let their buildings sit empty for years, sometimes decades, whilst local government can’t or won't act to enforce the tax, planning or cultural initiatives that would see these spaces brought to life, immediately brightening up the communities that they blight.

There are several European cities that have successfully made decaying city districts vibrant again through opening up unused properties. Dublin City Council, to be fair, have also been running a limited unused space initiative in Dublin but it is just a drop in the ocean of a problem that has frustrated many for years and only seems to be getting worse.

Nichol Gray is one person who was frustrated by the sheer amount of disused spaces and how the public at large seemingly just accepted it.

Together with her friends Zoe Sheehy and Jordan McQuaid they came up with the concept for IN PLACE, an arts initiative that would get Dubliners to look again at the shuttered shops, houses, and offices they pass by every day. The idea immediately gained momentum, picking up Grace Kristensen, Zoe Sheehy, Conor Coughlan, Hazel Shaw, Stephen Burke and Eric Stynes.

Taking over a long-vacant office block on Tara Street in Dublin is their most ambitious project to date. We caught up with Nichol to find out more a couple of days before the launch event


Nichol Gray on the roof of the Tara Street space


"Once you start noticing them it's very hard to stop"


Nichol Gray, 25, Director of IN PLACE

We had all been frustrated by the amount of disused spaces in the city centre. There's just so many, and once you start noticing them it's very hard to stop.

In response, we put out an open call for artists to submit ideas for pieces to be displayed in buildings that are normally out of bounds that would challenge the public to look at these places differently and not just accept them as locked up buildings.

We then produced a number of installations in other vacant spaces around the city but the public wasn't allowed in so we really wanted to get our hands on a space where we could invite the public to come and see what we were doing.


From Top Left: Zoe, Conor, Jordan, Nichol, Stephen and Grace


After a lot of looking, we came across the space on Tara Street. The landlord is really open minded to how the building can be used. In fact, we agreed on a barter system with him. He is going to gut the place and turn it into a shared workspace. We will then produce murals in return for being allowed use his building. A simple example of what could be done with hundreds of similar spaces across the city, places that could have their doors open, but don’t.

The first thing we did in Tara Street was launch our Kickstarter to help us fund the project. I was anxious that the Kickstarter launch event wouldn't just be a load of people standing around drinking cans so we screened our Kickstarter video, asked Connect the Dots to hold a workshop and simply allowed people to see our space. This got an amazing response with many more people asking to be involved. The IN PLACE project expanded quite a bit then, as new people brought their own energy to the project.


"Why can't we do something similar for Dublin?"


We wanted to do something that would interrupt people as they walk around, to take a second look at some of these places, that they aren't stagnant spaces, but ones that we can and should be using. Our open call from a few months back had created some amazing links with artists working in the same area that we wouldn’t have otherwise met and from this we now have seventeen artists creating work for the final exhibition in Tara Street

My hope is that IN PLACE gets people talking about potential policy changes that could see more buildings like Tara Street open their doors. We have an abundance of space yet so many independent art spaces being forced to shut down. There is an obvious opportunity to create a policy here and having groups like Connect the Dots, What If Dublin and Reusing Dublin involved with us has been crucial, because we don't want to point at a problem and say 'look isn't that shite,' but to carry on the conversation and say well this is what's happening with much success in other European countries and why can't we do something similar for Dublin?

IN PLACE opens on Thursday 29th September 2016 at 12 Tara Street, Dublin 2 (map). It will run until 3rd October.  More info on the Kickstarter page

Portraits by Dave Sexton. Additional shots of the Tara Street space and other IN PLACE events by Vauney Strahan, Hazel Shaw, Conor Coughing, Eric Stynes, Will St Leger, James Kirwan, Stephen Burke and Shane McCormack

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