The house that a billion euros built

Frank Buckley in his newly built home

This is an unlikely consequence of the Irish economic crisis. Artist Frank Buckley decided to express his anger about the property boom and bust by building a house from more than a billion euros of decommissioned notes.

In the lobby of the Glass House, an empty office building that stands as a relic to Ireland's cataclysmic property bust, money is changing hands between an old woman and a 15-year-old girl.

"Go off there and get a couple of sweets for yourself," says the woman, as she hands over a block of €50,000 (£42,000) notes.

"I should have brought my handbag in here, I could have made a fortune," she jokes.

The money, which forms a pulped brick of shredded notes, is part of an art installation - and home - built by unemployed Dublin-based artist Frank Buckley.

Mr Buckley has invited strangers into the space in the hope that it will inspire debate on the state of Irish national debt and the meaning of currency.

Frank Buckley outside his newly built home

Like many of his friends and acquaintances, Mr Buckley fell victim to Ireland's economic crisis. At the height of the property boom, he bought a house on cheap credit.

He wanted a place where he and his two children could live together with his wife, who had recently moved from Zimbabwe with four children of her own.

Bricks of shredded Euro notes which have been decommissioned The shredded notes come in 50,000-euro blocks

"I borrowed all that money, which was very much encouraged," he says. "I take responsibility for it but it was very easy for me to do.

"We were in this bubble, confidence was high, we were untouchable and within the space of two or three weeks it just took its toll."

He had no fixed income and within months of buying the house found he couldn't meet his mortgage repayments.

Under the financial strain, his marriage broke down and he moved into the shed at the back of the house as bailiffs came to take his furniture away.

His friends and acquaintances struggled too and a close friend, a property developer who had lost everything he owned, took his own life.

Start Quote

Frank Buckley

The girl said, 'If I could use this as money, I would get out of this country. And to me that was sad”

End Quote Frank Buckley

Staring at a stack of decommissioned notes he had acquired from a friend to use as confetti at his wedding ceremony he started questioning its real value.

"I thought, 'God, this is what this paper is doing to us?,'" he says.

He decided to create art that would bring the absurdity of the Irish economic situation to light and made paintings from the shredded notes and coins which he exhibited towards the end of last year.

Then the idea came to him to build a house.

"I was sitting outside the Glass House building waiting for a friend of mine to come out and I thought, 'Wouldn't this be fantastic, to do a structure inside the building with the shredded notes,'" he says.

He rang the building's agent who had seen a review of his most recent exhibition and forwarded him to the owner who was immediately keen.

Spec of a billion-euro pad

  • Originally built as a gallery but now a fully functioning home
  • Three rooms - living room, bedroom and bathroom
  • High-security door and double-glazed window
  • Microwave, dishwasher, drier and cooker planned
  • And a shower that will spray money
  • Euro notes provide excellent insulation and house requires little heating, he says

The mint agreed to supply him with more bricks of decommissioned notes. There was a vast amount of paperwork involved but mint officials were very accommodating and took care of it.

They have given the money to Mr Buckley on a loan basis and will dispose of it when he is finished.

Mr Buckley had never built a house before. "I got a hammer and nails and my brother brought down a generator and plugged it in. I had a light and I started from there," he says.

The house is constructed from sheets of plywood and frames donated by a local DIY shop.

The outside walls are built from stacked bricks while inside, the shredded euros are used to plaster the walls and carpet the floor. It has a double glazed window, a high security front door and a toilet.

The living room of the billion euro house Blocks were broken up and the shredded notes daubed on walls of the house

Mr Buckley now lives in the house during the week, returning to the shed in his family's back garden at the weekend.

Since he opened it to the public on Monday the house has received more than 300 visitors and he has been overwhelmed by the positive reaction to it.

But despite the success of the installation he is still struck daily by the poignancy of the Irish economic situation and recalls the reaction of his young visitor as she handled the block of useless notes.

"The girl said, 'If I could use this as money, I would get out of this country.'" he says. "And to me that was really sad."

Frank Buckley was interviewed by Outlook on the BBC World Service. Listen to the programme here.

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