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Public spaces have been crucial to society since the Roman forum, and a recent trip to London hit home that some cities create them incredibly well. In King’s Cross, once one of London’s most miserable areas, there are now outdoor swimming ponds, squares full of water and light features where screenings, talks and more (not even wide-screen, large scale events, but from 2000 people to 20, as with Irish Design 2015′s event in Lewis Cubitt Square last week. Kids from the local area had climbed up the structure the talk was taking place under, and listened as well. It was a welcoming, inclusive event.

Then, there has been the regeneration of the South Bank. Beneath areas of the arts centre, negative space has been used to create a skateboard park, whilst the space under the bridge hosts a book market. Entire school trips mill around the Millennium Park at lunchtime, sitting side by side with professionals enjoying al fresco picnics.

It makes us wonder why Smithfield Square isn’t being better put to use. Why can’t a talk take place under a few canopies at a discretionary rental cost? Why aren’t there design elements that will encourage interactions with people of all ages? Then again, people have been talking about saving Smithfield Square since 2011. The same goes for Grand Canal Square. Why aren’t these areas accessible? And do you really think that making squares effectively massive balconies for commercial enterprises on their peripheries is really their best purpose?

Because where people converge, what you get is living culture. The teens herded outside Central Bank every weekend remind us of the disparate subcultures in our city, or the benches outside coffee shops do the same. So why don’t we encourage people to use and derive joy from public spaces? Places where people can bring their own coffee, and enjoy the urban environment?

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Tricia Harris is organiser of The Chocolate Factory Collection, a design event at the Chocolate Factory this weekend.

What prompted you to put on the Chocolate Factory Collection design event? 
It was ideal timing. Firstly, as this year was christened the Year of Irish Design we put in a funding application to ID2015 which got the ball rolling on organising an actual event. As we are just an emerging community we felt this was the perfect opportunity to showcase what we?re doing here and also put the Chocolate Factory on the design map! A lot of the designer and maker markets are craft based and focus on smaller items and gifts. We felt there was a real opportunity to organise an event whereby people could view and buy bigger interior pieces like furniture and lighting directly from the designers. Having been to cities like London and Berlin and seeing how they transform old buildings into cool design spaces for events it seemed like the Chocolate Factory in the old Williams & Woods building on Kings Inns St could provide a space like this in Dublin.

What designers are being featured? 
We have a mix of both in-house Chocolate Factory residents along with invited guests. There will be over 20 exhibitors involved in the Furniture and Interiors exhibition along with participants in the pop up shop, our design café event and also in house display of work. There is a nice combination of work by young emerging talent, alongside some well established designers.

Can you tell us a little about working in the Chocolate Factory community? 
It?s great to work in such a creative environment where an authentic natural community spirit exists. We benefit from the collaborative opportunities that arise from such a diverse range of disciplines existing in the building, from architecture to up cycling, recording studio to a micro brewery, we even have a chocolatier! Even from my own point of view, when I need good images of my furniture I can use a photographer from within the building. Its also great to have an individual studio space while at the same time benefitting from the social interaction and being part of a group. There is always something interesting happening in the building!

As a designer yourself, why do you think people should consider and think about design? 
I think people are definitely more design conscious. I would actually credit companies like IKEA for bringing design into the mainstream, especially in terms of furniture! Now people want items that look and function well. A chest of drawers or a chair is no longer just an unconsidered purchase ? now there is a lot more thought into getting something unqiue, interesting and shows there off their own personal taste. But I also think people now appreciate well-made items that are built to last!

Do you feel like Irish Design 2015 is giving people more impetus to put on events such as this? 
Definitely, this year has really increased the awareness of Irish design and has prompted designers to share their work with the general public.

What are you currently finding really exciting in the Dublin design landscape? 
It feels like creativity and innovation are really flourishing at the moment, across all disciplines. Before it often felt like the focus was primarily on art, craft, and sculpture etc., but now galleries have embraced a wider range of disciples, the current furniture exhibition at the Solomon Gallery is a prime example.

Le Help

Le Cool is a free weekly magazine distributed every Thursday that features a selection of cultural events and leisure activities, revealing the things you really shouldn’t miss. We filter out, among other things, the best art, film, music, and club nights, as well as a careful selection of extraordinary bars, restaurants and other fine places. Le Cool content is chosen because we believe it is worth your time and will never be traded for money.

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