How the tale of a clever little bird inspired a city hotel design 

How the tale of a clever little bird inspired a city hotel design 

The word for wren in Irish is dreoilín and it’s also associated with cleverness. Because this tiny creature’s smarts earned it royal status, according to an old tale.

The story goes that the bird that could fly the farthest would be crowned King of All Birds.

Interiors of Wren. Picture: Ruth Maria Murphy

So, the canny little wren stowed itself away in the feathers of an eagle then, as the eagle soared into the skies, the wren popped out of its hiding place, morphing from secret joyrider to daredevil stunt pilot.

It took a cheeky tour of victory just above the larger bird without tiring itself out — unlike its drooping rivals below.

The tradition of the Wren Day, fresh in our memories from recent weeks, has long been linked with St Stephen’s Day or December 26, in Kerry — the county of origin of an architect on the team behind a new Dublin “home away from home”.

And this is how the design, identity and name of Wren Urban Nest started to emerge.

Michael Mullen, architect director, BDP Dublin, at Wren Urban Nest. Picture: Andres Poveda

The compact, nine-storey hotel is based in the heart of Dublin city, and its design was a collaborative effort between international architecture firm BDP and 21 Spaces, an award-winning multidisciplinary interior architecture and design consultancy based in Dublin.

“The story of the wren seemed to encapsulate all of the values — and one of the project architects was from Kerry,” says Michael Mullen, architect director BDP, Dublin.


“We were also keen that there was a story to be told to new guests as an icebreaker and that it would add to the welcome — the small but clever bird.”

The building, within moments’ stroll of Grafton Street and just around the corner from Temple Bar, is located on the site of the former Andrews Lane Theatre.

Its construction involved advanced sustainable technologies, eliminating the need for fossil fuels and allowing the use of 100% renewable electricity to achieve ‘Net Zero Carbon’ status.

“BDP was commissioned to develop the identity for the hotel in a way that would reflect the guest experience,” adds Michael.

“We wanted to communicate the essence of the hotel that reflected its ‘compact luxury’ in an honest way. The attributes included small, clever, innovative, natural and something that reflected our Irish culture.”

Interiors of Wren. Pictures: Ruth Maria Murphy

The impression of the theatre that occupied the site before Wren alighted played a role in the design.

“The single-storey series of rear buildings that had been used as Andrews Lane Theatre inspired the terraces and steps going down to reception,” adds Michael.

As for the vision behind the blueprint? “The concept was two-fold really — firstly we felt that there was a market for design-literate guests who were also responsible travellers interested in sustainability,” says Michael.

“Creating a compact footprint allowed us to concentrate the budget and minimise the operational and embodied carbon per bed space. Secondly, we felt that the role of the hotel in the city was changing and should reflect the guest profile.

“We imagined that our guests were to use this hotel as a basis for exploring the city whilst supporting local businesses and be introduced to contemporary designers and Irish craftspeople through the materials we chose.”

The property maximises the site’s narrow footprint and each of the 137 compact bedrooms picks up on the avian theme — branded as snug, cosy and roomy (9.5sq m, 12sq m and 18sq m respectively) “nests” in the heart of the city.

The rooms’ aesthetic, whilst influenced by Scandinavian functionality, are a reflection of modern Irish craft, landscape and attitude.


The interiors also have a green focus as Wren declares itself to be “Ireland’s most sustainable hotel”.

Interiors of Wren. Picture: Ruth Maria Murphy

Wren is the first hotel in Ireland to comply with the World Green Building Council’s definition of ‘Net Zero Carbon’ without having to purchase carbon offsets.

The hotel is the brainchild of Mark Butler and Neville O’Boyle of Irish waste management solution company KeyWaste.

Using sustainability best practices, this environmentally-conscious group provides waste and recycling services to domestic and commercial customers.

The interdisciplinary hotel design project aims to be one of the first hotels in the capital to comply with the Near Zero Energy Building standards. It has air-source heat pumps that provide heating and cooling to all of the buildings.

Exterior of Wren. Picture: Nick Caville/BDP

Irish brands Truwood (Monaghan) and O’Donnell Furniture Makers (Killarney), Be Floral (Athlone) and Mourne Textiles along with Jasmin Castagnaro of Italian design brand MIYUCA were among the many collaborators contributing to the unique interiors. Jasmin’s panel designs not only contain a natural material, but are also produced sustainably.

Patrick Kavanagh, engineering associate at BDP says: “BDP’s multi-discipline team were uniquely placed to design and deliver this first-of-its-kind hotel in Ireland that has zero local pollution, burns no fossil fuels and meets the World Green Building’s Council definition of ‘Net

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