Warehouse of Ideas

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Main actors

Local Government, City Government, Supranational / Intergovernmental Institutions, Research Institutes / Universities

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Project area

Neighborhood or district

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Ongoing since 2018

By collaborating closely with the local school of architecture, the city of Waterford has provided a space for architectural students to create a “warehouse of ideas”.

The initiative brings creative young people and the city’s decision-makers into a reciprocal relationship that helps envision a creative, sustainable regeneration of the city and an action plan for its cultural heritage. This includes co-design activities for cultural events and the mapping and recording of streets for future projects. The aim is to develop the historic 18th century Georgian area of Waterford into a vibrant cultural realm.

Originally published by Eurocities – Cultural Heritage In Action: LINK

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Waterford, Ireland

Size and population development
Waterford had a population of 60,079 as of the 2022 census. The city is the fifth most populous city in the Republic of Ireland. The Waterford Metropolitan Area, which includes the city and its suburbs, has a population of 82,963.

Population composition
The population of Waterford is relatively balanced between males and females. The age distribution shows a young population, with a significant portion under 18 years old. The median age in Waterford is lower than the national average. The ethnic composition of Waterford is predominantly White Irish, with a growing number of immigrants from various countries, particularly from Eastern Europe.

Main functions
Waterford is a city in Country Waterford in the south-east of Ireland and is situated at the head of Waterford Harbour. Waterford is known for its rich history, being the oldest city in Ireland. It's famous for its crystal production, which has been a significant part of the city's identity and was manufactured in the city from 1783 to 2009 and again from 2010 to the present day. The city also serves as an important economic and industrial centre in the South-East Region of Ireland.

Main industries / business
Waterford's economy is diverse, with a mix of industries including manufacturing, services, and tourism. Waterford Port is Ireland's closest deep-water port to mainland Europe, handling approximately 12% of Ireland's external trade by value.. The city is home to a number of multinational companies, particularly in the pharmaceutical and technology sectors. Waterford is also known for its retail sector, with a vibrant city centre and several shopping malls.

Sources for city budget
Waterford's local government revenue comes from a combination of commercial rates, property tax, grants from the central government, and various fees and charges. The city also receives funding from the European Union for various development projects.

Political structure
Waterford is governed by the Waterford City & County Council, which is the authority responsible for local government in the city and county. The Council consists of elected representatives from various electoral areas. Waterford is also represented in the Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish Parliament, by members elected from the Waterford constituency.

Administrative structure
The administrative structure of Waterford City & County Council includes various departments such as Housing, Planning, Environment, Roads, and Community Development, among others. These departments are managed by officials appointed by the Chief Executive of the Council.

Waterford Cultural Quarter is centred on the O’Connell Street area of Waterford City from Great George’s Street to Waterford Distillery on Mary Street. The linear streetscape of fine buildings that was once the business and enterprise hub of Waterford supporting the Port now provides an opportunity for us to embrace its continued evolution; to support liveability, knowledge, experimentation, creativity and innovation in new ways.

The vision for Waterford Cultural Quarter (WCQ) is  “to deliver inclusive and sustainable innovation and growth for the cultural and creative sectors of south east Ireland; to become a distinctive and engaging place to the heart of Waterford which is open, inspiring and a vital addition to the city’s creative, knowledge and visitor economy”.

The WCQ Strategic Plan 2021 – 2025 sets out six objectives which support the realisation of this vision. Each objective has a series of actions which will carried out in the coming years, including celebrating our built heritage and bringing culture and creativity into and outside the buildings; developing and implementing plans for inclusive and sustainable public realm and carrying out these projects in a collaborative way with the stakeholders, residents, creatives and businesses in the area. Placemaking – planning and designing places and spaces with the people who use them is a key element of the strategy.  The plan will be underpinned by a strong marketing strategy to assist in telling the story of the area, and also by accountable and efficient governance to ensure that all objectives of the WCQ Plan are achieved in the most effective way with a long term and broad view.

In 2018, Waterford Cultural Quarter (initiated and managed by Waterford City and County Council) and the Department of Architecture at SETU (South East Technological University) began a continuous collaboration on co-research and co-design projects for the historic area of the city. Their offices and studios are in neighbouring cultural heritage buildings in the Cultural Quarter of Waterford City.

In 2020, the architecture students began their semester-long ‘Urban Complexities’ design studio in the Cultural Quarter of Waterford. As part of their curriculum, they have undertaken intensive studies on area mapping and recording of potential spaces within the Cultural Quarter for art and heritage projects (using data from the planning department of Waterford City and County Council).

The students are involved with Waterford Cultural Quarter and The Irish Architecture Foundation Re-Imagine programme to make prototype stalls for a craft market in the Cultural Quarter. They participated in public consultancy workshops as part of this process and the winning prototype will be produced and used in the market by 2025.

The Waterford Cultural Quarter project has a 5-year budget of €750,000 (2021-2025) and is entirely financed by Waterford City and County Council.

Waterford Cultural Quarter has also received funding as part of the Creative Spirits Urbact Implementation Network 2017-2019, a network of nine European cities, funded by the European Union in the frame of the URBACT III Programme and received €57,769 in funding.

The initiative is an equal collaboration between the Department of Architecture, School of Engineering, South East Technological University, Waterford; the Waterford Cultural Quarter, initiated by Waterford City and County Council and; the Department of Services, Planning, Corporate and Culture, Waterford City and County Council.

The sharing of whole area street spatial mapping research, whole street elevation studies and 3D visualisations of the Cultural Quarter will be used in future adaptive reuse developments in the Cultural Quarter.

Locating the Architecture Department in the centre of Waterford City has enabled the students to engage in the urban realm on an ongoing basis; raises the visibility of the Architecture Department and associated activities with the general population and, crucially; prompts interaction between local initiatives and the Department of Architecture.

The process has forged relationships which engender trust between academia and policy makers.

The Waterford Cultural Quarter Crafts Market Co-Design Project involved students, local craftspeople and community stakeholders. This brought all actors into dialogue making sure all needs were met. This feedback has been organised into a methodology for Design and Strategy, and Management and Logistics for future planning of the market.


O’Connell Street was once the retail centre of Waterford City and remains a central thoroughfare in the city. It boasts many heritage buildings with specific historical significance to the city. In recent years, it has lost much of the prosperity and energy of its past and is struggling to find a purpose in the modern city.

New beginnings and a fresh distinctiveness are evidenced through the diverse communities who call it home, the range of cultural assets located on the street, the emerging scene of bars and cafés, and the cultural hub offered by Garter Lane Arts Centre.

This model of practice could be replicated in other European cities and regions where a Department or School of Architecture has a formal engagement with an administrative authority.

Some tips for transferring this model to a different context are:

  • Embrace new flexible modes of working.
  • Students do not see barriers, they see opportunities. Have realistic expectations of  outputs. The work is mostly exploratory.
  • Value high-level thinking.


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Want to know more about this project?

Katherine Waterford Cultural Quarter
Waterford, Ireland

Katherine Waterford Cultural Quarter

Institution | Bringing about urban regeneration through the lens of culture.

Katharina Metz
Berlin, Germany

Katharina Metz

Individual | Project & Communications Manager

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