Archive | August, 2011

A Classy Commute – the Architect

23 Aug

In 1996, Seán Harrington quit his job as architect in London for a job as architect in Dublin. In London he had always cycled to work, and he decided to keep that habit in Dublin.

On the first day in his new office, Seán locked his bike to the railing in front of the office. By noon, three colleagues had suggested he move his bike to the back. A bike in the front could give the wrong impression – clients might think this office business was in financial distress.

Seán did not quite follow.

Being attached to cycling, he didn’t understand his Dublin colleagues’ frowns. Seán had moved to Germany at an early age; and growing up in continental Europe made him fall in love with cycling. He loved cycling for the same reason he loved skiing; his other continental pastime. He saw cycling as the summer version of skiing — both require plotting a curve, looking ahead, swerving and following through, and both give the same joy children have on a merry go round. Who could not like that?

Also, Seán didn’t understand his Dublin colleagues from a professional perspective. As an architect, Seán had always aimed for simplicity, trying reorganise cluttered compounds and swanky structures into spaces that make sense like a mathematical equation – to the point where he chose Dublin over London because there was more to reorganise. His affection for simplicity and sustainability is also the reason he likes bicycles; nothing beats the straightforward functional style of a black retro bicycle, and getting around in the city is free and fast. Why didn’t his colleagues feel the same?

So two years after arriving in Dublin, Seán resigned and set up his own architectural practice. He started off by giving his employees expenses for every mile they cycled to meetings (at the same rate as cars). Then, he started using cycling as a marketing tool.

As a result, Seán’s practice has by now worked on a series of prestigious projects: the Tallaght cycle way (winner of the Best Public Space award), the Sutton to Sandycove cycle way (Europe’s longest cycle way, with a boardwalk that doubles as a flood defense mechanism), and the New Liffey Bridge (with dedicated cycleway) for the LUAS connector line.

In the end, Seán’s cycle has come full circle.

 

Cycling in Fashion with Petria Lenehan

15 Aug

Note: we wrote a guest blog for the American Bike League – in an effort to show how great cycling in Dublin is (becoming). We’re republishing that same blog here. Feel free to let us know if you think we gave the right impression. Photo’s by Rich Gilligan.

 

Petria Lenehan is a Dublin fashion designer schooled in New York, Florence and London. She owns Dublin fashion boutique Dolls.

Dolls is a Disneyland for fashion lovers. Every item contributes to making it a magic kingdom for grownups: Panama hats, brown leather camera cases, and copper pharmacist scales line the walls. At the entrance stands a matte green Dutch bicycle.

Petria primarily has that bike because it brings structure to her days. With a dual role as fashion designer and boutique owner, Petria’s life is hectic. Five years after opening Dolls, she still finds herself sketching dresses in business hours – meaning she will have to do bookkeeping later that night. But now, with help of her bike, a change has come about.

Petria recently rented a studio, forcing herself to be business woman in her boutique and fashion designer in her studio. It does require Petria to frequently travel between studio and shop, though. For that, she heavily relies on her bike, which has become the beacon of structure in her working life. Every day at her boutique, she loads shirts and skirts in her bicycle basket and cycles to her new studio.

But Petria also has the bike for its style. When the Irish Times recently wrote an article about Dolls, it said ‘you don’t have to arrive (…) by Dutch bike, but if you do you will be among your tribe. This is Dublin 8, darling.

And so Petria decided to display a bike alongside dresses, hats, scarves, frocks, jumpers, socks and clogs. She also decided to get a Dutch bicycle herself. As with her fashion designers – such as Peter Jensen, Cahterine André, and Renate Henschke – Petria personally knows the owner of the Dutch bike company, Joni Uhlenbeck.

Next to Dolls, in the same building, is a café called Bibi’s. It is run by Petria’s sister: Maisha. The food at Bibi’s has won more awards than the King’s Speech won Academy Awards , and Dublin 8’s Dutch bicycle tribe now has an extra reason to go shopping at Dolls – many customers walk into Dolls with peanut butter brownie crumbs still on their lips.

Petria – knowing the amount of calories going into her sister’s brownies – is happy her clientele comes by bike. Seeing her customers cycle away assures Petria they had a guilt free shopping experience. And that they won’t come back to change clothes that all of a sudden no longer fit them.

 

 


Cycling Symphonies with ‘Koor de Stemming’

8 Aug

In what must have been the sunniest weekend this year, Amsterdam choir ‘Koor de Stemming‘ visited Dublin. To mark the occassion ot their visit, bear bicycles and the Dutch Embassy Dublin organised ‘Cycling Symphonies’ — a hit-and-run a capella concert tour through Dublin; on Dutch bicycles and delivery bicycles.

Here’s the video:

 

And here’s a look behind the scenes.

Before you watch this, it’s good to know that before the choir started its tour, one of its singers helped inflate the bicycle tyres of some bikes to well beyond the maximum capacity. When you then add in those tyres subsequently got to roast in the sun for several hours (causing them to expand), you’ll see the result is a ‘blowout’ (in Dutch: ‘klapband’).

Our filmmaker Paddy Cahill captured its sound, and the ensuing looks on several soprano faces.

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