Foyers & In-Between Spaces
Sheila O'Donnell (O'Donnell + Tuomey)


Sheila O'Donnell

©Al Higgins

Hello, I'm Sheila O'Donnell, of O'Donnell + Tuomey. Through more than thirty years of practice, we've been engaged in making cultural places and buildings, initially within older, already existing buildings, and then on to new buildings that we have designed specifically for performance, exhibition, education and gathering. I'm going to talk about a particular type of public space that interests me - you could call it a foyer or a forecourt - it's a sort of space that occurs in the in-between, between the open street and those indoor rooms where programmed activities take place, inside or outside cultural buildings. These are the charged spaces that anticipate the play; prepares for the work that we're going to see; places of coming and going, accommodating stillness and solitary on looking.


Rome & Dublin Scenes

©O'Donnell + Tuomey (Both)

There's a lot to learn from walking around cities watching how places are used. On the left is the Portico d'Ottavia in Rome, with modern, baroque and Renaissance construction, all layered on top of the ancient, and it's been in use for more than two thousand years. First as the entrance to a complex of temples, then as a fish market, a church, and now it accommodates this dark taverna behind a plastic curtain. Its layers of material and use are legible, the texture and patina of its surfaces enhanced by light. The tubular steel chair, the man in the white coat, and the glimpse of a bicycle wheel in this photo, taken many years ago, are temporary, but important props that complete the setting. On any given day, there will be others. In Dublin in the 1970s, a temporary market on a truck bed is a moment of urban drama. The cast iron Ha'penny Bridge arriving at an angle behind, works with the translucent lean-to roof to provide a sense of movement and stillness - an intense urban place, transformed by transitory conditions into a theatre. In both cases the ad hoc and the permanent work together with light, material, character and human presence, and time. While the fleeting conditions of light and human activity animate them, and provide those moments of intensity. These two places, in Rome and Dublin, inherently possess the characteristics to accept, to encourage, that kind of occupation. And we try to understand what those characteristics are, in order to bring this spirit to our own new buildings.

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