Test Site

growth & decay

TEST SITE projects invites us to consider ideas of growth and decay, use and dereliction. To consider a vacant site, without current ‘use’ but with potent potential.

Located on the grounds of a former sawmill,
TEST SITE is changing the site while recognizing
its existing values, ecological, historical and social
Home to
Living Things

Kyrl’s Quay is a physical reference point for land without ‘use’ - a bustling ecosystem which can be examined as an urban resource and as itself.

The treatment of the natural ecology of the site and the considered approach to the realisation of the build presents an opportunity for ‘knowledge in action’ where common phrases and ideas such as ‘working with nature’, ‘sustainability’, ‘zero waste’ ‘natural heritage’ and ‘the circular economy’ are worked in real application at a scale which allows for meaningful engagement that is creative while grounded in science and engineering.


The site is a home to living things, a history, a ruin, a story and a potential something else. The project opens up the space to be considered as itself, situated in this time and place. The project is working with architecture, art and ecology. Led by Ailbhe, a temporary pavilion is assembled on site – the result of a collaborative design process. Concurrently Aoife is creating a 16mm film and a series of performances responding to the site and seasons. 


To share and disseminate ideas and make things happen. Through work with and support from our partner projects and funders, it is possible for us to reach out to the wider community of humans who wish to explore this potential of place. In the past 12 months, place has become so important, we have moved closer to the local – we have taken notice.

Be part of the exploration

TEST SITE will provide time and space for people to attend and engage with the site through workshops and events – please get in touch if you have ideas, memories or stories about this place, we would like you to be part of this exploration. 

TEST SITE Zine 2020

TEST SITE Zine 2020

How it Began

TEST SITE project has its origins in a coming together of people, grúpa daoine ag teacht le chéile.

In January 2020 a small group met to explore ideas of place and ecology during Aoife Desmond’s course ‘Art + Environment (A+E) Making’. The abandoned sawmill and adjacent vacant sites on Kyrl’s Quay became the focus of discussion throughout the 6 week course.

Aoife and the A+E participants (Ailbhe Cunningham, Myfanwy Jones, Frani O’Toole & Cilla Woodhouse) responded to the vacant sites through writing, photography and drawing. Their experiences of the place, multiple species, viewpoints and artefacts are brought together in a collaborative zine*. What appeared vacant at first is in fact a very productive, nature filled place – a wild ecosystem has emerged. The buildings, each remnants of an industrial past, now form a dilapidated backdrop for a wild urban Council for permission to occupy and transform the ‘island’ site – and make it accessible to the public. The island site is part of the Kyrl’s Quay industrial heritage oasis.

After launching the TEST SITE zine, Aoife and Ailbhe decided to approach the site owners, Cork City
Council for permission to occupy and transform the ‘island’ site – and make it accessible to the public. The island site is part of the Kyrl’s Quay industrial heritage complex.

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Citywide Collaboration

The team

TEST SITE co-creators Ailbhe Cunningham and Aoife Desmond are working with a core team comprising Cáit Ní Dhuinnín (project producer), Mary Kelleher (project assistant) and Rosie Lynch (project mentor/director Workhouse Union).
Aoife portrait
Aoife Desmond
Artist / TEST SITE Co-Creator

Aoife makes performance, film and visual art for gallery, cinema, theatre and off-site locations. She is co-creator of the TEST SITE project. Through her art practice she prioritises embodied knowledge and explores materiality, site and human/non-human relationships. She works in response to environmental crisis and rupture with an emphasis on restorative practices. She has a site-specific focus, combining critical thinking and immersive and sustained process. She often works collaboratively to initiate projects, building relationships with people, places and ecologies. Aoife has exhibited her work widely in Ireland and internationally. She guest lectures at CCAD, MA Space LIT, BAVA Sherkin (TU Dublin) and Node Curatorial Studies Berlin. She also runs independent courses on Art + Environment (theory and practice). 

Ailbhe Cunningham
Architect / TEST SITE Co-Creator

Ailbhe Cunningham MRIAI is an architect, printmaker and photographer from Cork. She is co-creator of the TEST SITE project. While studying Architecture at TUDublin, Ailbhe progressed a research interest in the enhancement of natural urban environments. Since graduating in 2015 Ailbhe has expanded this research. She uses the city for testing and challenging regenerative, urban placemaking ideas. Collaboration is core to her practice – Ailbhe works with local community groups, artists and built environment specialists. Ailbhe creates visuals to initiate conversations about sustainable, urban regeneration. Ailbhe continues to work in private practice and is a guest lecturer at TUDublin.

Cáit Ní Dhuinnín
Project Producer
Mary Kelleher
Project Asistant
Rosie Lynch
Director Workhouse Union
Project Mentor


Design & Build

The built elements are designed and delivered in
collaboration with local professional bodies; ARUP
engineering, Silvabuild and Meitheal Mara.

Our Coill Bheag is being designed and delivered in
collaboration with Hometree and An Taisce’s LEAF

Additional professional support has been received
from ASM Group, Rockaway Health & Safety, CEM
Services & Roy Hegarty Electrical.


Narayan Van Maale, Andrew O’Reilly & Denise Woods
additional 16mm cinematography / Fiona Sheil
Sound design / Michael Higgins Post-Production /
Additional performers Macha Shewolf, Kanako Haru
and Dan Walsh (drums).

Visual Communication
TEST SITE project includes a graphic identity
designed by Deirdre Breen.
The Publication
TEST SITE publication will be designed by Deirdre
Breen following the public engagement at Kyrl’s Quay.
This will include a critical response from Eve Olney
(ethnographer) alongside photos and written essays
by invited contributors and the TEST SITE team and Workhouse Union.
Supporters & Sponsors
TEST SITE project is funded through
an Arts Council Architecture Project Award.
This project engages with Cork City Council
departments including heritage, biodiversity, architectural
conservation, urban planning and arts. Access to the
Cork City Council owned site and professional advice
concerning permissions etc is being facilitated by Cork
City Council. Additional funding through a Cork City
Council Arts in Context Award was secured by Meitheal
Mara to collaborate on the build and contextualisation of
the Belfast Truss.
Thank you to everyone who has
supported TEST SITE – without your
support it would not be possible
to deliver this project.

Main Funder

Civic Supporters & Funders

Construction Sponsors

Additional Film Funding

An Choill Bheag Sponsor

Event & Publication Sponsor

Event Sponsors

Hotel Sponsor

Digital Media Supporter

Waste Management Sponsor

Key Project Partners

With special thanks to

Cilla Woodhouse / Frani O’Toole / Mary & Seamus Cunningham / Jason Turk / Mary Witty / Caroline Robinson / Sgt. Alan Cronin & the Bridewell team / Denis, Michael, Finbarr, Philip, Joe, Dan & all the team at CEM Services /  Aoife Browne / Niamh Ní Dhúill / Ray O’Foghlú / Matt Smith / Mitch Corbett / Denise Cahill / Maria Young / Micheál O’Connor / Siopa Gan Ainm / Benchspace / CCAE