Open Heart City recently won a UCD Impact Award for its work in ‘Inspiring a site of national conscience at the Sean McDermott Street Magdalene Laundry‘!

The OHC project provides a template for how architectural research can work with other disciplines and methods to develop new approaches to such sites. The impact of our research is on government policy, while the lasting impact is an innovative model for addressing dark heritage which will educate, enrich communities, and contribute towards justice. In the Government’s own words: “It will be a national institution which achieves both a global reach and strong connections to, and benefits for, the local community.”

Inspiring a site of national conscience at the Sean McDermott Street Magdalene Laundry

Research Impact Case Study by Professor Katherine O’Donnell & Professor Hugh Campbell (runners-up in the 2022 UCD Research Impact Case Study Competition). Additional footage courtesy of André Goyvaerts.

The Government Steering Group, comprising key State stakeholders and chaired by Mr Martin Fraser who is overseeing the development, coordination and implementation of the redevelopment of Sean McDermott St, have recently disseminated a call fo the Provision of Educational and Community Services along the lines of our proposed Vision Document.

A Dublin Magdalene Laundry: Donnybrook & Church-State Power in Ireland, Bloomsbury, 2023 which contains the work of a number of Open Heart City members is now in print and available to order.

About Open Heart City

Open Heart City aims to facilitate the emergence of a shared vision for the site of the last Magdalene Laundry to close in Ireland, in 1996, at Seán McDermott Street in Dublin.

    • The key to the Open Heart City project is a planned consultation process, involving workshops with a range of stakeholders and local communities.
    • This will lead to the production of a vision Document and a temporary Pavilion on the site.
    • Crucially, the consultation process will incorporate the views of survivors of Ireland’s Magdalene institutions, residential schools, Mother and Baby Homes and County Homes, and people affected by forced and secret adoption and other related abuses, many of whom have contributed to previous recommendations on memorialisation.

Open Heart City is a volunteer-led response to the events of September 2018, when Dublin City Councillors, often with great emotion, backed a motion not to sell the 2-acre former Magdalene Laundry site on Seán McDermott Street to a Japanese budget hotel chain. The Councillors overwhelmingly recognised that to take the site out of public ownership would be to lose the opportunity to create an internationally recognised Site of Conscience at the heart of Ireland’s capital city and in an area that has suffered much economic hardship and social marginalisation since the foundation of the Irish State in 1922.

The project is a collaboration between the Open Heart City Collective and CoLab, drawn together by the Centre for Ethics in Public Life at University College Dublin. The project is assisted by M.Arch. students from UCD School of Architecture & Queen’s University Belfast School of Architecture and LL.M. students from the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway.

The Open Heart City team is committed to working alongside the community organisations that have advocated for and have been promised the restoration of the Rutland Street School building just metres away from the former Magdalene Laundry site at Sean McDermott Street. Efforts to recognise and memorialise the systemic abuse and neglect of the past must be designed to help ensure its non-recurrence, through achieving the conditions for flourishing community life and dignified care for all when they need it.

“Open heart surgery is sometimes needed – it is invasive and direct, but at the same time it must be precise. It intervenes and works within what it finds to allow that organism to thrive. It is also vital to bring an open heart and generous, creative spirit to the difficult places so often found in the atrophied chambers of our inner cities.”

Professor Hugh Campbell & Associate Professor Katherine O’Donnell, Open Heart City Project Leaders

This website is sponsored by Justice for Magdalenes Research.