Where are you? What’s the area called? Does it matter?

  • What’s the importance/value in an area having a clear name?
  • Are there areas of the city that are more difficult to name? For example ‘Rathmines’, or ‘Stoneybatter’ are clear enough, however many areas of the city are not so clearly defined.
  • How should we better define them? Should it be ‘hard’ items such as street lights, street-name signs, etc…or should it be ‘soft’ items such as street feasts, or celebrations of each area?
  • Who/how should decide on the name (if no clear one already seems to exist)? For example, the Beta Area doesn’t seem to have a clear name in people’s heads (people refer to it as “that area just off Capel Street” or “Smithfield”). Would you agree? How should it get that clear name?
  • Should they be ‘quarters’, or ‘areas’, or ‘neighbourhoods’, or some other title?
  • Should they have any role other than place-making…ie should they simply give you a sense of where you are/live/work, or should they also have a political or strategic function?

Siena in Tuscany, Italy

Have you ever been to Siena? (It’s a gorgeous city, well worth a visit if you’re ever in Tuscany in Italy.) It had lots of very wealthy families, all feuding with one another. Each family had their ‘own’ area of the city, and were very wary of even walking in another family’s area.

Those family lines are still reflected in certain street items such as decorative street lights. Can you see the different decorative lights left and right of the above photo?

They also have different times of year when each family is celebrated with those lights being lit, drumming bands go about with the family crest, and there are massive onstreet feasts.

(I stumbled upon one of those street feasts, when I walked down a very narrow street with perhaps 200 people all seated either side of a very, very long table (presumably loads of separate tables end-to-end with tablecloths over), all celebrating. It was amazing to see! Unfortunately I don’t have a photo as the lane was so narrow, that I almost felt like I was intruding!)

How to Beta the Identity of an Area?

Would we like as clear boundaries as Siena? If so, why?

It would be great to try out a few different Betas which explore this concept. Any advice/thoughts/suggestions would be great. Do you know of any examples that we could look at from around the world?

Back to those street lights… 

(Here’s some upclose pics of those Siena decorative street lights in case you’re interested.)

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Dublin City Council are trying a new method called DCC Beta Projects...your input, then quick trials 'on the street', then your feedback! We'd LOVE your help!
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23 Responses to Where are you? What’s the area called? Does it matter?

  1. ursula says:

    I think this is a great idea to identify some of the Dublin neighbourhoods. I really like the idea of identifying areas of the city – and love the project to identify the area to the west of The Powerscourt Centre as the Creative Quarter for example

    I think hard signs are a great idea and they could be something nuanced like in Sienna where the street signs and stables are not immediately noticeable – but really add to the richness of the city’s appeal when you discover the different symbols. I lived in Sienna for a while and their idea of neighbourhoods is very exciting but is clearly highly competitive/segregated/insulated and builds towards the nerve shattering Palio every year where each of the areas support horses which race against each other in the main square. It is a little scary on the streets with the supporters of the different areas having occasional skirmishes! I would like something more inclusive in Dublin.

  2. dubcitybeta says:

    Great insight Ursula, thanks so much. Any other thoughts (at any future point) would be great to hear also! 🙂

  3. anarchaeologist says:

    < For example, the Beta Area doesn’t seem to have a clear name in people’s heads (people refer to it as “that area just off Capel Street” or “Smithfield”).

    Most Dubs refer to the area as the Markets. Do I detect another attempt to rebrand an area by DCC along the lines of, cough… 'the Village' along Camden Street? Of course there once were more markets in the area before the Fish Market was turned into a surface car park. Then there was the Daisy Market and even the Dando had a brief afterlife to the rear of Capel Street (west side) after it was displaced by that fine architectural set piece, the Stephen's Green Centre.

    Oh, and whle I'm at it, where's the long awaited Cultural Framework Plan for Smithfield. You know the place, that big open square thing just west of the, ahem Beta Area? Has anyone looked at the successes and failures of the HARP scheme here? Just askin'.

    • dubcitybeta says:

      OK, to put it another way. If you were on Daft.ie http://www.daft.ie/searchsale.daft?s%5Bcc_id%5D=ga3&search=1, what would you put into the ‘area’ filter on the left hand side? See http://www.designingdublin.com/?p=4191 whose results came from talking to people ‘on the street’. See https://twitter.com/#!/dccbeta where you can see that there’s no one name in the public’s consciousness. See http://maps.google.com/maps?q=dublin&hl=en&ll=53.346837,-6.267872&spn=0.020342,0.038495&sll=53.345709,-6.272292&sspn=0.020342,0.038495&hnear=Dublin,+County+Dublin,+Ireland&t=m&z=15 where it’s called Smithfield, etc.

      To turn that around…
      You don’t think that worked? Why didn’t it work (do you think)? How would you have gone about it (if at all)?

      What do you think are the successes and failures of HARP, and why?

      Re the last paragraph, best to ask DCC Customer Services on 01 222 222 or https://www.facebook.com/DublinCityCouncil or https://twitter.com/#!/dubcitycouncil or http://dublincity.wordpress.com/ for queries outside of the Beta project (just to make sure not giving wrong information, because this project is part-time https://dubcitybeta.wordpress.com/whos-behind-this/, etc).

      • anarchaeologist says:

        You’d have to ask Daft that! So the poster on the designingdublin site is surprised the Markets don’t feature on an already fairly busy poster. Hmmm… so what? Inchicore is on the Luas, another ‘colourful area of the city’, which doesn’t feature on the poster. And as far as the results go from replies taken from ‘people on the street’… it sounds to my cynical ears like some attempt is being made here to cook the toponymic books, so to speak. And a quick look at the google map you’ve linked to will confirm the opinion of someone I’m sure that Dunboyne is located south of Parnell Street, just, in fact, to the northeast of Broadstone. The Gorman I notice doesn’t get a look in at all.

        There’s actually a whole literature out there on that sort of thing (the naming of places and the retention of those names throughout the years), but you’d have to read historical-geographers, a few social scientists and even archaeologists to get near the story. Lacan (I think, I could be wrong here) has stuff on this too. But hey! we have Twitter, we don’t need the heavy stuff…

        <You don’t think that worked? Why didn’t it work (do you think)? How would you have gone about it (if at all)?
        All I'm saying is that the area is referred to as the Markets; few people with any knowledge of the city would extend Smithfield east of Church Street and I personally see little point in referring to the area as anything other than the Markets. And even if the one remaining fruit and veg market gets pushed out (which it won't now thanks to the present state of the econony), I'd imagine the area will still be referred to as the Markets for years to come. Look at it this way: the Liberties have long ceased to be a separate legal entity, but they're still the Liberties (even though there is a huge level of public not to mention municipal ignorance as to where the actual boundaries are/were).

        How would I have gone about what exactly? Renaming the Markets? Errr.. I wouldn't. But you could for example take a look at some of the vacant public buildings (including those owned by NAMA, i.e. us) and ask what their function should be in this brave new Dublin. The old tax office is smack (no pun intended) in the middle of the area in question.

        Unfortunately it's much easier to focus on the failures of the HARP scheme. If you work in DCC and you're honest about how your own organisation actually works, you'll know that HARP was well-intentioned, though rather half-arsed in its execution. The planners/architects were professionally out of their depth and the whole thing shuddered to a halt when the guys at the top lost interest. The 'business community' got a lot out of it though but apart from the Macro Centre in North King Street, the locals got very little. The Complex, the only functioning arts centre in the HARP area (Block T being a front for the local business cartel), was fucked out of it by the courts acting on behalf of NAMA with little support from DCC, the instigators of the scheme.

        Yeah sure, I'd like to see something happen in the Markets but I'm afraid experience has shown that DCC aren't really capable of delivering it. All we get are seemingly well-intentioned initiatives like this one. Leave it the way it is and let it develop organically like Temple Bar did before the money men moved in. Better still, if DCC really wants to achieve something positive, rebuild the fish market. It's the capital city of a small island, a city located on the coast near where the fish live ffs. Are the elder lemons of the Corpo still so Catholic that they'll only eat fish on Fridays?!

        Oh and by the way, I'm a Dub and I work in Smithfield.

  4. Carrickavoy says:

    I think this is an interesting project with massive potential. It has to be more then a simple rebranding of an area which put corporate interests above that of community. I’m not overly familiar with the HARP scheme but I do know that successful planning works with local communities using imaginative thinking.

    The worth of historic environments is increasingly being appreciated both for quality of life and in terms of economics. If the area has a tradition of being known as the markets, and in turn if its identity is formed through those markets, then why not use that as the starting point?

    The history and development of trade, markets and capital and their material expression would easily supply you with a wealth of inspirational material. This could lead into a discussion on our modern relationships with markets systems. There is a lot of stuff there to churn over.

  5. Thomas H says:

    I really Like the idea of defining the different areas of Dublin. I like the name “The Markets” but most people outside Dublin don’t know of the markets, so I tell them Smithfield, Capel St or The Four Courts.

  6. elaineedmonds says:

    There is also the question of how fine a scale do you go to- The Liberies has 3/4 areas in local parlance (tenters, james gate etc) and it contains the dubline and antiques quarter as tourist/municipal designations (which I cant imagine my neighbours acknowledging). I would love to see some of the areas defined but in absence of agreement on hard boundaries (like the weird area drawn up for The Liberties local area plan) then it becomes dificult to arange hard items- especially considering the already disasterous mishmash of ‘urban design’ already in Dublin.

  7. This might be of relevance – “Here are the new boundaries for next year’s local elections”

  8. Pingback: Dublin City Beta Projects & Digital (& more…) | Dublin City Beta Projects

  9. Here’s a way of crowdsourcing neighbourhood boundaries. Any thoughts on the method?

    Crowdsourced neighborhood boundaries, Part One: Consensus http://bostonography.com/2012/crowdsourced-neighborhood-boundaries-part-one-consensus/

  10. John conroy says:

    Identity in an area is very important. there are two sides to this
    (1) The identity to those living in the area/street, what it means to them and this is extremely important.
    (2) what it means to users and those passing through.

    Most areas or streets will have an inner identity and it is important to identify this. While street lighting or bike stands etc can help define an area to those outside, it is important to ensure that whatever is decided by professional ties in and relates to the inner identity. in other words, this outer identity should be driven by the inner identity.

    • Thanks John. How would you try to balance residents (living there) and commercial (working there) and transitory others (passing through, or visiting – for example shopping) or those that love an area (perhaps a connection through family, or have a high level of interest in it such as studied the area)?

  11. Lisa says:

    I’m interested to hear that the “beta area” is known as the markets, I’ve lived on Arran St East (which is slap bang in the middle of that area)for 1.5 years and I’ve never heard it referred to as the markets! I say “just off Capel st” when I am describing it but it would be nice to have a solid name. So long as its not same some pretentious rubbish like “the creative quarter” I’ll be happy.

    • Hi Lisa, thanks for the feedback.

      One of the outcomes of the Designing Dublin: Love the City project (http://www.designingdublin.com/?page_id=2373) was that people called the area all sorts of different names – ie there was no clear name – and so it tended to disappear a little from people’s minds.

      It’s one of the reasons that we chose that area as a test area – it allows for a clear opportunity to explore how Dublin might decide on the name of areas, who should decide (as John just above also discusses), should it be along ‘neighbourhood’ boundaries (administration etc) or ‘community’ boundaries (perhaps much more changeable)…and so on.

      One of the reasons that we use the term “Beta Area” is that we didn’t want to pre-suppose what people might want to call the area. Another reason is that they don’t exactly overlap – the Beta Area is larger, encompassing the far side of the road, and the South Quays also. Allows for the exploration of ideas around pedestrian crossings, the Liffey, Northside-Southside ideas, and so on.

  12. Madeleine Lyes says:

    I thought the 25%/50%/75% models were a clever way of dealing with low-ish numbers (something which would likely be an issue in Dublin). I would like to know more about who they asked and how they sourced the “self-selected” people who gave the data – they self-selected, but still some people just drew penis shapes all over the maps?
    The question of race which gets mentioned in the first comment – highlighting how different groups perceive different boundaries – would be fascinating to track in Dublin. At the moment, we have data about where non-Irish-born people are concentrated in the city through the census, and it would be very interesting to see how the maps of areas inhabited by large numbers of new Dubs would be affected.
    Also interesting to try something like this on a non-grid system. To what extent do we even mentally map our city areas by street? Do we use other landmarks?

  13. Taken from http://whichhood.org/

    “High-quality neighborhood boundaries could form the basis for many civic apps — news, issue reporting, local retail, planning, etc. But those maps don’t exist. Any available data typically represent an administrative or real estate focused view. The “official” boundaries don’t adapt and grow as rapidly as neighborhoods do in our daily use. What if a community data source existed, generated from thousands of individual contributions? What if adding data to that resource was kinda fun? Maybe a bit competitive? A game?

    Drawing actual boundaries for neighborhoods is hard: you don’t always know the other side of a neighborhood edge, only the one closest to you. Instead, whichhood.org asks you to identify neighborhoods block by block.”

  14. steve white says:

    fyi always liked the use of already in use info from flickr photo tagging to define neighbourhoods as suggested by Tom Taylor http://boundaries.tomtaylor.co.uk/ dublin version> http://bit.ly/arE4vX mix that with the survey ps update from bostonography http://bostonography.com/2013/neighborhoods-as-seen-by-the-people

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