In the first part of our ‘In conversation with….’ series, Daniel, our relationship manager, sat down with The Library Project founder Angel Luis Gonzalez to discuss the history of the space, it’s ethos, and why it works well for events and short term retail activities.
Hi Angel, first off, thanks for taking the time to meet with me today.
The Library Project as we know, is such a unique space located right in the heart of Temple Bar. Could you please give us a quick history of the space and how The Library Project itself came to be?
Well, the building itself dates back to the 1990s when it was purposely built to host Black Church Print Studio. The ground floor and mezzanine that currently hosts The Library Project has had two previous tenants, first the ‘Original Print Gallery’ for well over a decade, and then Monster Truck Gallery for about 4 years. Both very important additions to the Cultural Quarter that is Temple Bar.
PhotoIreland – PhotoIreland, the organisation of which I am founder and Director, were actually offered the space in 2010. A tempting offer that we declined for it was a little early for us, and our attention was focused on the first iteration of PhotoIreland Festival, in July that year.
In 2011 as part of the festival, we started The Library Project, a publicly accessible library collecting the latest photobooks, built with book donations by publishers and artists. A photobook is not a mere book with photos, a catalogue, but the equivalent of an artist’s book for a photographer. They are a great way to discover new practices, new stories, creative ways to discuss about key issues. But where in Ireland can one find these? With The Library Project we wanted to start a relevant and contemporary collection, and offer it to the public.
When we were offered this space in 2013, we jumped to the opportunity, happy knowing that we could host the collection in such an ideal location. It helped progressing our relationship with the publishers and artists, as we opened a specialised bookshop offering these hard to get titles. The library is specifically about photobooks, but the bookshop enjoys all disciplines in the Arts, practice and theory.
We saw the space as a library and bookshop before realising that the main space had the potential to host other events, and cater for other offerings, particularly in retail.
Vey interesting. How did this realization come about?
Well when we first moved in our plan had been to use the space as a book shop. As such, we fitted very thin shelves on the walls, to hold our library of books, but there was a lot of blank space, especially when you consider the walls are 7 metres high. When you see that amount of white space, your creative juices flow, and you begin to think how else could this blank space be used? And so we begun to host exhibitions and events, showcasing a variety of artworks.
As we began to host more and more events, we had to constantly move
our collection of books upstairs, until we eventually decided that we
would move the whole Library upstairs!
And now today, we have this large main gallery space on the ground floor, which, given its size and large window display, is perfect for a variety of retail offerings.
Yes, the window display is something which really strikes me
whenever I pass through Temple Bar. Clearly a lot of thought is put into
its presentation. Is this something which you work directly with brands
on, and do you have a visual merchandising background yourself?
Once we opened the space up to retail, the use of the window display was a natural progression, and has allowed us to test a lot of things. The window has such an interesting interface with the street. When people pass by they are usually overwhelmed with everything that is going on in Temple Bar but when they look inside, our objective is to provide intrigue for them and to lure them in. The display is a great way for us to showcase our ethos of merging the cultural and retail spheres within the one space.
With regards to my own merchandising background, the answer is very little, this has all been a learning process. We now know that there is a number of products that we need to have on the window display for people to understand that the space is also a retail space. We never leave the window empty anymore, and our strategy going forward is to always have a conversation with guest brands about how we can maximize this display. This is pre-planned to a certain extent, but very much evolves once the pop-up begins. It’s important that when we work with brands, that we don’t fracture the window – this is your section, this is my section, rather the offerings should complement one another, and the display should be understood as a whole.
It’s interesting that you mention the synergy that is created between both cultural and retail elements of the space. It aligns with our own beliefs that the face of retail is very much in flux, as consumers seek out much more meaning in the brands they choose to consume. Given this, are there any brands in particular that have worked well/that you think would work well in the space?
This space for me, has to be at the forefront of thinking, and
creating a dialogue within this sphere. I’m very much open to how the
space is used, but there must be a strong element of creativity and to
offer new and fun ways to look at life.
In terms of duration, I prefer to work with brands who are interested in building a longer term relationship. For example, we had Peroni, the premium Italian beer, take over the whole space for a week. They set up an exhibition space to showcase the winners of their industrial design competition, which included fantastic pieces of work from glass bottle designs to fashion.
Cool! So you mentioned they took over the whole space for a week. In terms of brands putting their own stamp on the space, how flexible are you in this regard?
That’s completely fine, we are usually quite flexible, and for me, I think it’s important that we consider their budget.
Good to know! So during my research, I came across a few pieces on the upcoming second phase of the Library Project. Could you please explain to me what this is about, and any upcoming events which we can check out?
Yes, so the second phase really related to the PhotoIreland
organization. We are forming a larger organization called the
PhotoIreland Foundation which will be the parent organization of each
different strand; The Library Project, The Print Fair in November and
the PhotoIreland Festival next May.
The Festival is happening in May this year to allow us to connect with the city’s Art students, and we will also try and expand it into other disciplines apart from photography – possibly film, & advertising. We always need to be evolving!
Always evolving indeed Angel! Lastly, for brands looking to use the space would you have any advice?
Use SumUp as your payment system.
The bank machines are far too expensive, especially for start-ups, and with SumUp, the receipts get sent by PDF right to the customer’s inbox, which eliminates the need for paper and enables you keep in contact.
Thanks Angel, we can’t wait to see the next Pop-Up in this unique space!