Cork Evolves

What is Cork Evolves?

Cork 2050 – Cork’s submission to the development of a National Planning Framework sets out an ambitious strategy for the city to drive effective regional development. Cork has the capacity to accommodate significant economic and spatial change and has the potential to play a leading role in delivering balanced national growth. Key to this growth will be the development of the new mixed tenure urban neighbourhoods at the Docklands and Tivoli in Cork as well as significant new social housing developments. Our planned population growth forecast is for 540K to 850K by 2050 for the County as a whole. At the same time, Cork City is embarking on a boundary extension to the City Council’s Administrative area which will see the City’s boundary extended to include up to 85,000 additional residents. It is crucial that this development is plan led and seeks to maximise opportunities whilst ensuring a balance between community, economic development and environmental outcomes. Cork Evolves is a partnership between Cork City Council, Tomar Trust and the HSE.

We are running a series of sessions across the summer to explore the challenges and opportunities for Cork from design, planning and creative perspectives as part of the Cork Conversations series.

The project is intended to create a civic conversation in the city which would explore innovation and best practice in future housing development.

UCC ran the resident workshops in May and explored:

  • Development and evolution of Social Housing
  • Who owns Cork – Land, Social Housing and Power
  • Cork as a metropolitan city region
  • Becoming a Place Champion, co-planning and co-designing with people and communities

Cork City Council are running a series of sessions to explore the topics:

  • New Models of Social and Affordable Housing
  • Exploring Placemaking
  • Community Perspectives

Cork Evolves Session 1

Exploring New Models of Affordable Housing


Our first session took place in St. Peter’s visitor centre North Main St on June 8th, 2018 where we discussed the topic of new models of social and affordable housing. We heard from Hamburg Architect Tom O’ Donnell, CEO of Ó Cualann CoHousing Alliance Hugh Brennan, and Brian Trainor from Coinstreet.

Tom spoke widely of innovative housing which is self-organised, inclusive and nonspeculative including co-ops, collaborative, collective and community oriented housing projects.

In summary Tom suggests we should be:

  • supporting co-operative and collaborative initiatives
  • enabling co-operative approaches to self-organised development
  • enabling financing of sustainable initiatives 
  • enabling access in Ireland to alternative ethical banks

Hugh presented on Co-operative affordable home in sustainable communities. He spoke about how they are committed to building communities and not just houses. Their vision is to see fully integrated co-operative homes at affordable prices in sustainable communities throughout Ireland.

Their mission is to provide fully integrated sustainable communities where “owner members” will live side by side with “tenant members” in social and private rented homes sharing common amenities.

Hugh feels that Cork is uniquely positioned to play a crucial role that will enable Ireland to compete on the international stage.

The Ó Cualann model is fully integrated co-operative, affordable, pre-sold to eligible candidates in the case of all owner-occupied houses, private finance, subsidized by local authorities for low to middle income earners. 

Brian spoke about Coin Street and what it is about being:

  • A social enterprise
  • Site & Venue Hire
  • Operates family centres, community programmes
  • Manages Car Parks
  • Housing Co-operatives
  • Maintains a significant and high profile of public realm

Their Key approach has been to:

  • Appeal to everyone
  • Learn from others
  • Avoid duplication and competition in service delivery
  • Be financially dependant
  • Differentiate by choosing quality
  • Be opportunistic without forgetting brand identity
  • Understand the local politics, focus on relationships
  • Recognise the challenge of growth

The feedback from the session and the attendees:

“Social housing and regeneration tightly controlled by the department – too much of the same. Co-op housing allows something more interesting and has community input better buy in and matures long term looking after homes”

“Positive Inventory leads to a plan leads to evolves”

“Place for co-op housing but it’s just part of the picture (O Cualann model has a good mix to turn the development in to a reality)"

“Local Authorities are under pressure to deliver the housing crisis”

“Opportunity to create mix – not everything will work. Mix is essential”

“Landscaping is important huge potential needs commitment by Local Authority to develop co-op housing model and hereby improve the mix”

“Solution has to be density. Urban sprawl unsustainable. Value of the property will increase in conjunction with development will be a challenge”

“The ground floor community enterprises model is very interesting. In Ireland high end developments will be bought up. Often lack economic value to community not so much a problem in Ireland. Need to ensure families are brought in, education services. Reduce the need for transport. Avoid complicated commuters”

“People have different needs. Sustainable communities need to look at how to attract different ranges of people”

“Ageing population will expand and there are challenges associated”

“If we want to mix, social housing pool should be larger than currently required and rented at market rate until needed for social to provide a buffer and a mix but if large stock how to make allocations on a market basis“

“Many options available in Europe, banks control flow of the money, need an ethical bank concept, emphasis on social development“

“Challenge for the Local Authority because of centralization“.

Please click on the following links to view keynote speaker presentations who discussed new models of social and affordable housing:

Brian Trainor, Coin Street

Tom O’Donnell, Architect from Hamburg

Huge Brennan, CEO of Ó Cualann Co Housing Alliance

Cork Evolves Session 2

Exploring Placemaking

Our second session of the Cork Evolves sessions took place in Nano Nagle Place on July 5th 2018 where we explored the topic “Placemaking”. Our Keynote Speakers on the day were Sarah Drummond from Snook and Nicholas Boys Smith from Create Streets.

Sarah Drummond

Sarah is a designer, CEO and serial idea generator.  She co-founded Snook, My Police, Cycle Hack, Dearest Scotland, Alloa Pride and The Matter. For this work she was awarded a Google Fellowship for her work in technology and democratic innovation and named as Good magazine’s 100 extraordinary individuals tackling global issues in creative ways.

Throughout her career, Sarah has always championed the use of design as a force for public good to reimagine a new public realm that works better for people. Her work focuses on embedding design inside organisations to build their capacity to design better services.

Her work has been at the forefront of civic, public sector and democratic innovation. Her wider work focuses on opening up the mental models and skills of design to give people agency to imagine and make preferred realities.

She is also co-conveyor of the European Network for Housing Research Working Group on Comparative Housing Policy is a member of the international advisory of the International Journal of Housing Policy.

Sarah’s presentation summary:

  • We need to have and use data to observe something and change it. Data is very important.
  • Look at places as more than just bricks.
  • We have to invest in operational expenditure in places.
  • Placemaking is an ongoing collaboration.
  • Co-design for the community. Co- Design a process of design participation. Conversations not consultations.
  • We must invest in operational expenditure. Stop viewing buildings as finished products. Think about the needs and functions before the actual building. We need ongoing collaboration.
  • Placemaking is everyday business. We need to challenge our biases and ask who is not at this table. Public workshops at what doesn’t work.
  • Create masterplans with citizens to allow people to have a say in design of their home.
Nicholas Boys Smith

Nicholas Boys Smith is the founding Director of Create Streets, a Commissioner of Historic England and an Academician of the Academy of Urbanism. He is the author of Heart in the Right Street and has written in The Guardian, The Sunday Times, Architects’ Journal, Estates Gazette, Building Design, The Spectator and others. He was a judge of the 2016 Sunday Times British Home Awards and has been described by The Architects’ Journal as a “leading figure” on issues to do with the built environment.

Nicholas’s presentation summary:

  • Nicholas observed that Cork City Centre is getting a lot right and was impressed with what he saw.
  • Where we live is incredibly important to our mental health.
  • What kind of places do people want to live in. There is a connection between where we live and health. 40 % of health is directly related to place
    Street trees – If in doubt plant trees.
  • Greenery needs a cashflow to be managed or by residents.


Good case in the suburbs:

  • Dethatched suburban homes preferred by majority of Europeans.
  • Space.
  • Personal Greenery.

Reason why suburbs are bad:

  • Longer the commute, the less likely we are to socialise.
  • 78 % of data says that high rise is bad.
  • Harder to raise children in a small flat. They can’t play outside.
  • They may have developmental issues.
  • Big Blocks are associated with crime. Easier to commit a crime in places with public access.
  • Easier to make them work in more prosperous communities with more money.

Street Patterns:

  • Pedestrionising / narrowing streets can create more pollution and does not get rid of the problem, it just moves it.
  • We need cities to be resilient.
  • Aesthetic attraction is behind social interactions in importance valuation of someone’s home.
  • Visual satisfaction correlates with community satisfaction. 

Please click on the following links to view keynote speaker presentations:

Sarah Drummond

Nicholas Boys Smith