Monthly Archives: May 2014

Our Recycled Shed takes Shape

I am a scavenger! I have been one since I was broke at college, when I put my salvation in the hands of the Hare Krishnas for a couple of hours in return for one of their delicious meals, while my ancestors buried in the ghettos of eastern Europe reeled in their graves.

These days I never walk by a skip without investigating it for potential treasures. My house is almost entirely furnished with cast-offs.

My ancestors must have forgiven me by now because in the last couple of weeks we have been blessed with extraordinary bounty  delivered by wonderful coincidences…

Krzysztof's sketch of the shed

Krzysztof’s sketch of the shed

A few weeks ago Krzysztof, carpenter, scavenger-of-note and genius upcycler, had to vacate the workshop facility where he stored tools and the odds and ends of materials that he had been collecting for his various projects. I suggested he use the end of my garden to make a shed for himself. The deal was that I would provide the site, he would build the shed, and it would be used both for his storage needs and for any materials needed for the 5k extension.

We decided to make the shed a project in itself: it was to be constructed as far as possible out of reclaimed materials or stuff diverted from landfill.

So in telling the story of our shed so far, I am like a six-year-old child, excitedly prefacing each turn of events with “And then…”

And then … we got a delivery of pallet wood which would otherwise have been discarded, from a pal of Krzysztof’s at the factory where he used to work.

pallets delivered Rusty Nails Pile of Nails CompostS

And then … my neighbour Liam, an urban farmer who uses my garden for his overflow (he needs more space, I don’t have the urge to garden), emptied the compost bin to fill his vegetable beds.

wheelbarrow spud

The concrete blocks from the now-empty compost bin were used to build foundations for the shed, and the space was mapped with pallet wood.

Space for Shed text

And then… Francis drops by to chat about his wife’s 50th birthday and leaves behind some heavy-duty plastic sheeting, that he is no longer using. Essential for protecting the structure from the relentless Irish weather!

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And then it all starts pouring in… and not just the rain.  Bloom Fringe showed an interest in our project and introduced me to Dara from ReCreate who run a recycling initiative that takes end of line and surplus stock from businesses to reuse as art materials. Dara mentioned that a gallery that they collaborate with was in the process of dismantling an art installation and did we want any MDF and wooden supports to which I said YES!

Dara ReCreate232 6mm MDF boards 246

And then … my neighbour Dave who happens to work at the aforementioned art gallery heard that I was taking the MDF and offered me the Rockwool insulation that was used to soundproof the installation as well. I said YES! The hero Dara from Recreate collected it for us even though they wouldn’t normally stock that type of insulation. And this, along with the pallet wood, gave us the bones of a shed.

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And then.. it rained and rained but between the showers we had lots of visitors and helpers and cake!

visitors and cake 030 252243  Planting 2 pride cake

I really like the look of the shed at the moment – it makes me nostalgic for my South African childhood.

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And this is how we stand…waiting for the ancestors to do their heroic work of intercepting good stuff on its way to landfill and sending materials our way to finish the walls, and floor. We are thinking about using the election posters to make the roof tiles (best use for them!). Any suggestions welcome.

Lots more to come: My pal Karin is putting a bee lure in the garden to try to coax in some local bees. Krzysztof is making it from found materials.. Work continues on the shed…

Bloom Fringe comes to the 5kextension

On the 31st May we are opening up the garden between 3pm and 5pm see  for details

  • The Project Architects will discuss their response to the project brief
  • Krzysztof will show how he will reuse discarded materials to build a structure
  • Information on bee keeping
  • Beautiful sculptural flowers and insects produced by Karin Stierle from scraps courtesy of ReCreate

Read Liam Patersons’ post about his garden efforts in the  Neighbourly Garden. Liam is an avid gardener who helps out and shares a space in my garden- You can peek at his own edible front garden Bloom Fringe day too


Please have a look at Community Reuse Network  is the all Island representative body for community based reuse, recycling and waste prevention organisations. 

A multimedia message sent from Krzysztof to me, We will forgive him the spelling, it's not many of you who can pronounce the Polish for "extension", let alone spell  "przedtuzenie domu"

A multimedia message sent from Krzysztof to me, We will forgive him the spelling, it’s not many of you who can pronounce the Polish for “extension”, let alone spell “przedtuzenie domu”



Barn Raising in Dublin City

barn raising n. A social event in which members of a community assist in the building of a new barn.

I am passionate about architecture, in particular innovative housing solutions; I am also fascinated by building techniques both cutting-edge and traditional which can help to address housing issues. Above all, I am profoundly passionate about the transformative power of people and community. The provision of shelter (metaphorically and literally) is the common thread binding these passions.

I have met the most extraordinary of ordinary people over the years. People with whom I have created a space in which I have found myself held and supported and sheltered.

That idea of shelter or the metaphorical barn – a space that holds the tools, the food, the means to explore, to collaborate, to develop and to create, is behind my intention in this project.

The neighbourhood I live in carries a long tradition of community collaboration. The houses were built by the Guinness Brewery for their workers with the enlightened realisation that  providing decent housing, and attending to the welfare of workers would result in worker satisfaction and greater productivity.

Many of the residents of my estate are former Guinness workers and their families, which identifies and binds the local community in a stronger way than other neighbourhoods. Indeed my darling neighbours Jimmy and Joan Smith, who hold an often-used spare key for me and my forgetful teenage daughters, and keep a constant eye on my house, were the original residents of the estate. Jimmy was part of the construction team which built the houses and was himself a Guinness worker.

jimmy and Joan Smith outside the communal stores

jimmy and Joan Smith outside the communal stores

Both Jimmy and Archie Kelly  – Guinness worker and community activist – have many stories testifying to the strength of the community, with tales of families looking out for one another, shared facilities, social events, and gardening competitions. They each hold a valuable personal archive of good and hard times in a fascinating period of Dublin’s social history. The legacy of which lives on in our community stores: a resource which allows the residents of our estate to borrow all manner of tools from a communal shed for a small annual fee.

Archie Kelly ,original resident , guinness worker and community activist

Archie Kelly ,original resident , Guinness worker and community activist

It is this sense of community, local and online, that I hope to tap into in our 5k extension experiment. It is inspired in part by barn raisings and other vernacular building traditions in which communities come together when one of their number requires the diverse set of skills and enormous effort needed to build a barn—skills and effort no one member of the community alone could possess. This comes with the understanding that the favour will be returned.

I am hosting this project, insofar as I am the provider of a space (my garden). I will be collaborating with people who carry different skills. It will also be a personal journey in trying to balance letting go with sharing my skills, in not determining the space, but curating it.

In documenting the process, I hope to share many voices, not only my own, and to provide a platform for our architects, our team, the local community and the wider wonderful knowledge filled virtual community.

Krzysztof Piwowarczyk, the team’s master carpenter discusses how he built his house in Poland with the help of his neighbours in this video

Echoes of the tradition can still be found in other community building projects, such as house-building and renovation carried out by Habitat for Humanity, and the strong volunteering spirit of the Irish is evident in the brilliant work done by The Niall Mellon Township Trust in South Africa. Maybe our little project might help develop a conversation around renewing a social agenda of living simply, collaborating and collectively empowering communities…

Meanwhile, there is activity in the garden – Krzysztof has started building a shed at the back of the garden entirely out of found materials, (before he put his back out!). The architects are about to publish their first blog piece, the apple trees are in blossom and I will continue to keep you updated.

Apple tree Close