Mabos is the name of a warehouse in Dublin's docklands area, that has been turned into a very special location for all kinds of urban niche activities. We spoke with initiator Dave Smith about his idea behind this multi-functional maker space, which hosts a wide variety of events ranging from women-only skateboarding events to robotic workshops, do-it-yourself furniture making classes and late-night BYOB parties.
Apart from the program and raw urban warehouse setting one very interesting thing about Mabos is the fact that it’s a member club that asks its visitors to behave well. This contrasts somehow with the raw, concrete, and hands-on atmosphere of the club, but helps keeping things going smoothly. Everyone who comes in, also on club nights, gets a mini-tour by Dave himself or one of his associates. They explain about the place and its activities, but also kindly ask people to recycle their beer bottles. This personal approach helps people to act responsibly, and not make a mess.
The warehouse is located in Dublin’s Grand Canal Docks area, a characteristic docklands regeneration project that lacks a sense of place, just like all those other regenerated harbor areas in Western European cities. These really are the last series of urban projects rolled out before the crisis hit the European property market, some four years ago. The architecture is solid, it’s always windy, green is placed in pots, and public space is not designed as a place to hang out. Within this urban context some smaller lots haven’t been developed yet, and that’s not likely to happen in the near future. Here people can do what these kind of areas lack the most — unexpected things.
Being with only a small group of people, and not making real money out of it, Mabos offers one real big thing to this area. They radiate personal care about the public space and are willing to make the place better. Essentially they do not only consume the area, but help producing it, although hardly recognized by the local authorities. Smith and his team have to conquer formal authorities consequently, and come up with all kinds of ideas that make it possible to execute their activities within the contrains of the Irish law.
It’s local policy that has forced Mabos to become a members-only club, where visitors have to purchase a member pass that gives them access to a week of activities. In member clubs the rules are different. Mabos has no permit to sell alcohol — an issue that is tackled by organizing bring-your-own-booze parties. Everyone walks in with a bag full of bottles and consumes them inside. Soft drinks to mix are provided by the hosts. In general these BYOB parties seem to be a widespread phenomenon in Dublin. Even commercial places like lunch bars without a permit to sell alcohol advertise with ‘BYOB!’ on the windows. The strict regulation on the one hand, and the economic crisis on the other hand, have catalyzed this phenomenon.