more about this project

Initially assisted by Heritage Council Architecture Research Grants in 2008 and 2009, Áine Ryan (architect and spatial planner) undertook to identify the locations of all extant handball alleys in Ireland, and to visit and survey many of them, as part of a research project centred on articulating their architectural and cultural value. Circa 760 alley locations were identified, circa 350 visited, circa 50 surveyed and 20 have been included in set of typology drawings.

Since late 2018, after a lull of some years, the remaining locations are being visited, primarily by E. Timoney who is voluntarily supporting the project. Meanwhile, the list of locations reaches over 850.

Although celebrated as one of few vernacular building typologies indigenous to Ireland, this celebration is arguably casual, as little is actually know about the handball alley: that the striking typology of the alley evolved over at least 250 years with many interim versions and sub-typologies; that it formalised particular social practices passed on through generations; that it physically ‘marked’ sites of enormous local significance; that it was in essence the first formal secular social space in Ireland.

Though the alley is clearly regarded first and foremost by the handball community, and by the architecture and artist community, it is not regarded by lay audiences who commonly regard them as eyesores and unsafe places. In the context of their increasing demolition, this project researches the handball alleys in an objective and unbiased manner, in order to enable more informed decision-making as to their fate, by local communities and government bodies alike.

This research project into the handball alley has been profiled in some depth, or mentioned, in the following media. To learn more about the aims and aspirations of this research, please follow the links below:

Newspaper articles
February 2011

January 2010

September 2008

Radio Interviews
October 2018
Limerick Community Radio, John O'Carroll interview with Enda Timoney

June 2009
RTE Radio 1 Derek Mooney Show

June 2009
Tipperary Midwest Radio Seamus King Show

August 2008
Kildare FM

August 2008
Clare FM

April 2009
Building of the Month feature National Inventory of Architectural Heritage,668,en.htm

June 2008
We Love Irish Handball Alleys, post on landscape design blog
post picked up by similar blogs and

Royal Irish Academy Volumes on Art and Architecture of Ireland

October 2011
2nd edition Atlas of Rural Irish Landscape

April/May 2009
History Ireland Magazine

Academic Seminars and Conferences
July 2011
paper at New Light on Vernacular Architecture conference, University of Liverpool, Isle of Man

April 2011
talk in Stadtlabor Summer Semester Series 2011, Institute for European Ethnology, Humboldt University, Berlin

September 2010
paper at Sports History Ireland Conference, Mater Dei, Dublin

November 2009
poster accepted for Architectural Humanities Research Association conference on Field/Work

June 2009
paper at PE PAYS conference, University of Limerick

March 2009
paper at UCD Architecture Department Research Seminar Series

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