Nice Gaff: Jennie Moran on The Palm House at the Botanic Gardens

Posted December 23, 2016 in More

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The Palm House at the Botanic Gardens

Architect: James Boyd & Son


“I think it’s so crucial to a city that there are places where people can loiter; I think it’s a lovely way to treat a place, to make you feel welcome or more poetic even, without a time limit.” Those familiar with the artist Jennie Moran’s work will cherish her ability to conjure the inherent poetry of a place and her venture, Luncheonette, in the basement of NCAD is no different. Foundational to her approach to hospitality was a chance encounter with her favourite building in Dublin, The Palm House at the Botanic Gardens, while in pursuit of some warmth in the midst of a cold winter. The Palm House was a flat-pack glass house, built in Paisley in Scotland and shipped to Dublin to be erected in 1884.

“It was maybe the absurd act of trying to find warmth in the city that I used to go there because it was warm and I used to think about these public spaces in the city that aren’t so inviting. I thought, ‘here’s this really weird and unexpected form of hospitality found purely through the provision of a warm space that’s open to the public where it’s ok to just kind of hang around’. And it just got me thinking about the way you kind of misuse public spaces, and use them in ways that they’re not really designed for to try to get a bit of extra hospitality out of the city in ways that weren’t intended.”

“I was thinking that hospitality or warmth is such a complicated idea because [there’s] hundreds of components that come together to form a glow or a magic. It’s really hard to find those places in the city that are open to the public, so I used to use the Palm House in the Botanic Gardens as an unlikely point of hospitality where there was actual warmth where nobody really queries you sitting there and spending time there. In the winter especially, it’s really tropical and fancy, like going on a tiny holiday! And then, of course, there are magic smells of foreign plants.”



Of such lovely, tamed wildness on the outskirts of the city Moran says, “It’s such a kind of cute amount of wilderness; it’s such a manageable or contained amount of catharsis. It’s a really gentle amount of nature for you, the amount of nature you could cope with if you were convalescing or something. I think, especially in Dublin, that it’s very easy to feel that there are very organised spaces around you with really organised people moving through them and rushing on to their activities and so you can very regularly feel like a weirdo if you want to sit down and gather yourself anywhere. And maybe that’s why I love food, because it makes people dwell unselfconsciously.”

“People travelling through places and buildings leave behind some kind of residue”, she ponders. “Every single person leaves behind some kind of invisible residue of their person, and I often imagine, ‘Will this building remember this person?’ It’s maybe in the way of archaeology where layers and layers and layers build up and the surfaces are gradually rising and I imagine that happening in an invisible way as well with bits of humans. I think of that place remembering each and every one of them. And I can imagine that happening in a very real way in the Palm House.”

“I suppose,” she concludes, “I would often be looking for places where I can dwell and loiter and maybe trust somewhat in that building to accommodate a bit of you.”

Jennie Moran is a Dublin-based artist who uses her practice to create opportunities for hospitality. She has gathered knowledge through a degree in sculpture at the National College of Art and Design, international residencies at NES Iceland, Fondazione Ratti, Italy and Galleria Blanda, Buenos Aires. Her projects have been facilitated by Dublin City Council Art Bursary, Arts Council Project Award, Artist in the Community Award, Engaging with Architecture Award and a Visual Art Bursary. For more information about her practice, see

Words: Jeanette Farrell


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