In 2022 CoLab presented over three years of research work about the site of the former Magdalene Laundry at Sean McDermott St in Dublin in the form of an exhibition held within its chapel. The purpose of this exhibition was to highlight how, using architectural tools and working methods, we can carefully analyse sites of “dark conscience” in the pursuit of spatial justice. Based on feedback from survivors and our larger network of community and advocacy groups, it became apparent to us that the project’s scope was potentially much wider than Sean McDermott St.
Sean McDermott St. is one of hundreds of institutional-type buildings systemic throughout Irish society and embedded within our towns and cities. Our question in response is to ask how this built infrastructure might be activated to enact change that is equally systemic in the pursuit of spatial justice.
The work being exhibited at Grangegorman will present our initial research addressing this larger question of the legacies of carceral and welfare institutional sites across the island of Ireland. Rún- the Irish word for secret but pronounced ruin in English- is our given title for this ongoing project. The content of the Open House Exhibition 2023 offers a snapshot of work-in-progress describing our country-wide landscape of (in)visible buildings; it is Ireland’s first-ever survey of the condition and extent of these sites of dark heritage across the island.