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04th Dec 2023

Temple Bar’s gallery and studio space the Icon Factory closed after 13 years

Emily Mullen

Another all-important studio space has closed in Dublin

On my commute into work, I pass a space that used to house Block T in Kilmainham’s Bow Lane. The site is in various stages of being cleared for building, the bright mural from Dublin graffiti artist Decoy, is disassembled with each passing day. Planning permission has been granted for an eight-storey apartment building and the two-storey building is being cleared, we should probably be thankful for small mercies that it isn’t being turned into an aparthotel. The not-for-profit Block T has thankfully found a new home in the nearby Digital Hub, but the future of the D8 workspace is unclear, with government plans to wind down the agency and redevelop its property assets for social and affordable housing are on the cards.

This isn’t the only closure (impending or otherwise) that has hit our desks in the last few weeks, with the future of Dean Arts Studios on Chantham Street remaining uncertain, and now word has come of the unfortunate closure of the Icon Factory in Temple Bar.

Despite being given one of the most onerous titles as one of the 10 most disappointing destinations in the world, for the last few decades Temple Bar has been an unofficial creative hub in the city- with studio space, galleries, acclaimed arts venues and four public spaces. The creation of the space as a creative hub is partly down to cheap rents from CIE who bought up the area around Fownes Street and Eustace Street in the 1970s with the intention of building a massive Dublin bus station, which has been long quashed. Unfortunately one of the last remaining artists’ facilities in Temple Bar has now closed its doors, with the artists’ cooperative and gallery, which has been providing a space for new and emerging artists since 2010.

The space where the Icon Factory sat was once an abandoned post office, which was reworked and remoulded into a gallery and studio space by the team. The gallery also launched the Icon Walk, a public art installation created by local artists which has brightened up the previously unused streets in and around Temple Bar.


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A post shared by The Icon Factory (@iconfactorydublin)

With “commercial rents so high” a representative from the Icon Factory told the that their future in the building was untenable and added that it cannot afford to “open or pay for a new place at the moment”.

The last few years have been uncertain for the organisation, since 2020 when the building changed ownership, the space came under threat. A petition and a number of letters of objection were submitted to Dublin City Council about proposals to turn the space into a restaurant and retail unit and the closure was postponed for three years.

Two weeks ago, members of the Icon Factory invited friends to celebrate the incredible work created inside and outside the space over the last 13 years, taking to social media the team said there’s “Nothing left but a final ‘Goodbye'”.

With studio space in Dublin already super limited, it’s never been harder or more expensive to live and work in the city as a creative. Leading creatives to emigrate or to move from the city, seeking more affordable options, taking with them the ideas, creative functions and different tacts that give the city a bit of colour and heart. An unfortunate kickback from this is that the city is feeling even more corporate and even less creative than ever.

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