Discovering and sharing information about vacant or underused spaces in Dublin.
The aim of the project is to engage Dublin citizens with underused urban spaces and generate distributed data on these spaces. To this end, the project develops a crowd-sourced web mapping application for gathering information on Dublin's underused spaces. Click here to visit website
Local Task Force
The project was mainly facilitated by the University College Dublin (UCD), with the support of students from the School of Architecture Planning and Environmental Policy and the School of Landscape Architecture. In addition, it received support from by Dublin City Council (DCC), the citizens of Dublin, the local community, and stakeholders groups. However, the participation of certain age groups (from 18 to 24 and above 55) was quite low.
The project inputted data from existing lists of vacant buildings or buildings at risk such as Taisce Buildings at Risk, Dublin City Council Derelict Sites Register, Dublin City Council Vacant Lands Survey, and the Dereliction Project. On the other hand, it took inspiration from an interactive web mapping project in Philadelphia, named Grounded in Philly, that supports urban agriculture on vacant lots (Click here to visit website). In addition, it also draws from the work of Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) who advocated for interactive surveys to engage citizens with their place and influenced a map of underused spaces in Dublin in 1914.
On the political level, Ciaran Cuffe, who has worked with DCC and served as a Green Party TD, has expressed a deep interest in the project. Furthermore, the initiative has attracted a lot of attention from different social and environmental groups such as charities for people with physical or intellectual disabilities, urban farms, homelessness charities, among others.
There were some technical problems during the website development and it would have been useful to count with more human resources not only to upgrade the website but also to map in line with the lessons learnt from the pilot experience.
The project counted with financial funding from TURAS as well as human capital such as the Reusing Dublin team, the G-ICT application and supporting ICT staff, and the buy-in from local stakeholders.
Strokes of Luck
The project had an immense stroke of luck when a new legislation in Ireland, which requires every local authority to keep an inventory of vacant sites in order to manage a vacant land tax starting 2017, was approved. However, while this experiment does not provide planners with the verified information they need, it does provide a starting point in a process that is challenging due to the scale and fluidity of the data.
The project fosters civic engagement on the issue of underused spaces and provides a free access online interactive map which shows how underused spaces are distributed within the city of Dublin. In this regard, it supports the collection of significant knowledge/data, promotes physical improvements, generates economic benefits and, enhances stakeholder integration and community empowerment.
At the moment, the website has more than 3000 social media followers and since August 2016 it is hosted by a homelessness charity, the Peter McVerry Trust, who will use the website to engage citizens with vacant private houses and will start to map them.
On long term, a comprehensive map can be created to provide the basis of all strategic planning, when used in combination with other layers of information.
In order to achieve long-term sustainability goals, it is crucial to diagnose the city and understand the present situation before planning for the future. Therefore, a map of underused spaces appears to have the potential to be a fundamental first step in the sustainable management of space in an urban area, by providing an overview of the opportunity spaces in the city to address social, environmental and economic challenges.
Key lesson learned - Philip explains
"Citizens and stakeholders have valuable local knowledge which they are willing to share and which can assist in informing decision making for creating resilient and adaptive cities."
Philip Crowe, UCD