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UCD Landscape Architecture, Fieldwork & Strategies and the Great Willow Weave

UCD Landscape Architecture, Fieldwork & Strategies and the Great Willow Weave

Written by Sophie Maltzan, (opens in a new window)Fieldwork & Strategies

In 2010, UCD landscape architecture students left their studio drawing desks for the first time. Instead of designing on paper in the studio, they went out to interact in the city instead. Under the direction of Sophie Gräfin von Maltzan, the students go out and work at 1:1 scale in the city, preferably with the community. The each- way learning between students and community as they “explore” the neighbourhood together is immense. 

In the summer of 2016, Phibsboro Tidy Town approached Sophie’s practice, (opens in a new window)Fieldwork & Strategies. They had received €500 funding for building a memorial for Phibsboro teenagers who were shot during the Easter Rising. After spending several weeks exploring Phibsboro and the community’s expectations from a memorial, the students came up with several proposals.  With funding promised by Croke Park, UCD and Dublin City Council, they began planning the “Great Willow Weave” with the residents.

Willow weaving workshop dates were set for the middle of June 2016, posters printed and put up in every shop window in Phibsboro by Phibsboro Tidy Towns, who also invited local primary schools to take part. 6 UCD students, several local residents and over 200 school children built 10 willow sculptures in Great Western Square over one week. At the weekend, the UCD students and Sophie held a fete over 2 days in conjunction with Phibsboro Tidy Towns. There were local musicians, games, weaving dreamcatchers, headbands, Brigid’s crosses and Harvest Nuts with Newgrange Willow Design. Originally the plan was to leave the sculptures up for 4 weeks but the residents association asked the students to leave the sculptures for longer. Over the following months, the group of students under the guidance of Sophie, came back to the Square every fortnight to monitor the project and gradually took down the sculptures as they decayed over the months. Every time much to the resistance of the community. Especially the local children who visited the park every day were upset. The group did repair sessions with the residents between the end of June 2017 and end of January 2018. Nonetheless, the sculptures gradually decayed as they were built to be ephemeral.

The group then did a door-to-door survey on the Square asking the residents if they would like another Willow Blitz. With the answers positive, they built another 8 sculptures in June 2018 with over 400 local school children. The materials for the project were financed by Dublin City Council. There is potential for this to be an open- ended temporary project going forward. The process was participatory, playful, open ended, inventive and spontaneous.  This is an excellent example of students and organisations being involved in a grassroots, community project.

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