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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Dublin City Council
# art makers
Here's how you turn vacant buildings into creative spaces
Dublin City Council runs a scheme that links up vacant spaces with artists and creative people.

EVERY CITY HAS its vacant spaces that need to be put to use, and part of the legacy of the recession is the pockmarks of empty buildings dotted around Ireland.

In Dublin, part of the way the issue is being tackled is by renting such spaces to creative people who can put the blank rooms to good use.

Solving the problem

Jim Doyle of Dublin City Council’s arts office explained that DCC began its role in solving the problem of vacant buildings about two years ago, in response to the number of inquiries it was receiving from artists about spaces.

“The use of vacant spaces has always been something that artists have been interested in,” pointed out Doyle.

Artists historically have always gone into places where people aren’t and re-imagined them and re-invigorated them.

The council initially held workshops to examine what artists were looking for, and from there started to develop practical responses to the questions that emerged.

They began to offer two types of space, and have broadened out the programme since. Now, they offer two spaces that they themselves own on Foley St, as well as spaces that independent owners or estate agents might have that they wanted to place in the scheme.

“This isn’t an experience that is particular to Ireland and how we experience things. It’s definitely something that’s a consequence of not only the global downturn but a consequence of the way property waxes and wanes,” said Doyle.

It’s not just a matter of installing people in vacant spaces and letting them off to do their own thing. DCC also offers help in building the skills needed to work in a vacant space, like budgeting skills and management skills.

It offers the Foley St spaces on a permanent basis, which can be rented by artists or creatives who want to develop or incubate their ideas. “They’re essentially white spaces,” explained Doyle. ”They’re safe and very basic.”

They are for people who maybe have not been in a space before, who want to try ideas and gain knowledge in a very practicable way.

These spaces can be rented out for €300 a month, and renters can have them for one month, three months or a year.

They have been used by people with community-based arts projects; for design work; as exhibition spaces; rehearsal spaces and more.


The council provides information online and in person, and a ‘tool kit’ for artists is expected in March.

The project has been a huge success so far. “We’ve seen such a significant uptake we’re finding we are looking for spaces for longer term occupation,” said Doyle.

The council is conscious that longer term lets are needed for artists who might need spaces for five or six years, for example, to be able to fully immerse themselves in a project.

Doyle describes the project as “helping people to help themselves. It’s about fostering and empowering rather than about subsidising artists.”

Almost 25 buildings have been involved so far, and the new occupants are selected through an independent adjudication process.

These artists and creatives are the people that we as a city have called upon to help us in our hour of need when there’s been lots of terribly vacant awful looking spaces. We shouldn’t be calling on them in or hour of need – we should be incorporating and getting them to be part of the fabric of the city at all times. I wonder if we might consider how they fit into the plan in the longer term, and how they fit into the plan all the time – not just how we respond to the plan in the long term.

Every vacant space that has come onto the scheme – except the permanent DCC buildings – has moved off it “because it has either awarded to somebody, or somebody has occupied it in some way,” said Doyle.

Artists or building owners can get in touch with the Arts Office on 01 2225455 or email

Read: Communities can take back their town with pop-up museums in vacant spaces>

Read: Pics: Dublin’s ‘pop-up’ inner-city park opens its gates>

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