Just back from London: What a Beautiful Mish-Mash!
October 12, 2000 at 6:21 pm #704889
Ahhh… what a fabulous place London City is. Such a variety and richness of Architecture. Stunned and delighted by the smallest details of engineering and decoration as I strolled through old Underground stations, running my palm along beautiful oak handrails and ceramic tiles.
For the first time I was surprised at myself for enjoying the crammed together hodge-podge of radically different buildings. What an invigorating and inspiringly jutaposed mix!
London is a cross-roads not only of cultures but also of design disciplines, people of different ages immersed in centuries of learning and achievement.
A city in which great work is inspired by it’s environment and history rather than desperately trying to overcome it.
I think now that Dublin should go full speed ahead with new development – who cares if a minimalist glass and steel structure sits next to the intricately decorated masonry Georgian. As long as it’s of quality!
October 13, 2000 at 9:36 am #715015
I agree with John totally and have been advocating new developinment in the city of Dublin for ages (so long as anything of historic value is not detrimentally damaged). SOM, Georges Quay, Spencer Dock & Conference Centre, etc…etc… all should have gone ahead……it would have added another facet to visually boring old Dublin. (Dublin…our capital city…no stunning attractions …nothing to note…….. Supposedly the in place to be at the moment but just a mediocre ‘post colonial provincial city’) One could name any city in Britain and it would match or superceed Dublin in visual terms as well as social/night life. To add, however, as rich and culturally diverse as London is, I saw Sir Richard Rodgers in a programme on TV a couple of years ago and he put Paris way ahead of London, of which he saw as dirty, polluted and shabby. Therefore Dublin must be way behind cities of Europe.
October 13, 2000 at 9:46 am #715016
Irish Times Article 7.09.00 What do y’all think ?
Dearth of originality leaves Ireland in cultural desert
Ireland is a non-contributor – a taker not a giver, a parasite of ideas, not a supplier. Apeing America and culturally parasitic, Ireland viewed from afar has little to offer writes Desmond Fennell
It’s a pity Dermot Desmond’s multi-storey glass pyramid will not be built in Dublin docks. A tall, handsome, striking building, it was to contain an aquarium and simulated tropical forest. Although the architect was American, the promoter, like the location, was Irish. In a city and country fast becoming a derivative English-American mish-mash, it would have provided a note of distinction – and might have spurred creative innovation in Dublin and outside it.
Normally a nation maintains its cultural visibility through a combination of distinctive inherited things – language, religion, manmade environment, customs, arts – and distinctive creative innovations. What Lara Marlowe some months ago called the “Temple Bar Celtic Tiger culture” has little time for the inherited elements of Irish culture. Pushing them to the margins or wishing them buried, it displays its English and American “with-itness” proudly. Hence the urgent need for creative innovations if Ireland is to remain culturally visible in the world.
I write as one who lives on the Continent, where Ireland figures in the news only as Northern Ireland politics. News of creative innovation never reaches us from Ireland. In a very concrete sense, the lack of such news from Ireland makes Ireland absent from Europe – and in effect from the world.
Europe, the West generally, is an evolving co-operative life in which fresh leads, models and perspectives come now from this country, now from that. In this context of give and take, Ireland is a non-contributor – a taker not a giver, a parasite of ideas and models, not a supplier.
Proud as we are to have the contemporary West – its ideas and ethics, its practices and problems – now at home in Ireland, we assume they are here simply to absorb or gawp at, not to think about, critically, inventively and with effect. That work, we assume, is for London and New York. Heads bowed in anticipation, we await their next directives.
The result is that, as the distinctive Ireland of modern times – rural, Catholic, poor, struggling for freedom, anti-imperialist, restoring its Gaelic language – passes away, a blank space is replacing it, culturally speaking, on the international scene.
“Prospering on massive American investment, a nice place for holidays and weekends, the home of excellent entertainers and craic” doesn’t add up to the kind of presence that merits one serious or respectful thought – except from east European competitors for US investment.
People who want English or American lifestyle know where to find the genuine articles and have no need of “Paddy” imitations. To put it bluntly, what is making Ireland culturally invisible is not so much the Celtic Tiger’s marginalisation of traditional Ireland as the lack of originality in Irish thinking and practice which preceded the Tiger and which still continues. Originality is another way of saying creative innovation.
Even if we did not know it from personal experience, we could assume that this dearth of originality in Irish life is not due to a complete absence of questioning, freethinking, inventive Irish minds. Presumably, there are at least as many such minds here as in any other nation of our size.
No, the absence of originality that can be observed in Irish public thinking and in Irish practice is due to something else; namely, effective opposition by Irish society to Irish original thinking getting published and discussed, or having its projects implemented. Put differently, the controlling forces in Irish society effectively compel Irish people to outward conformity and imitation.
I said that creative innovation is needed urgently if Ireland is to remain culturally visible in the world. It might be argued that there is no pressing need for such visibility to continue – or to be restored. The world can get along without Irish innovative thinking or action – can even, if need be, find substitutes for its Irish entertainers. In the Republic of Ireland, massive cultural derivativeness and economic boom go hand in hand without apparent contradiction.
All that is true. No imperative requires that we regain cultural distinctiveness. But it would still be a momentous event for Ireland, after all its history, to end up a mixture of Lancashire and Massachusetts. Minimal self-respect demands that we should at least be aware of what is happening, and consciously choose our cultural dissolution rather than drift into it, mindlessly.
Desmond Fennell’s latest book is The Postwestern Condition: Between Chaos and Civilisation.
October 13, 2000 at 9:49 am #715017
Can I add ,I work in a firm which at the moment has numerous employees from abroad (ie. USA, Canada, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Australia, Italy, Sweden) and on numerous occassions on a social occasion (drinking session) they have remarked that us people(meaning we Irish) would want to get our act together….ie that we are the place/people to be at the moment but we are seriously lacking.
October 13, 2000 at 10:11 am #715019
I agree with the article. Now would be the time to shape up in Ireland – the country is supposedly booming but at the same time the capital city is like a rotting corpse half eaten away by rats with a few platinum prosthetics stuck on. [What a strange mind I must have..]
I’ll tell you, as ‘Anthropolgist’ said I’d also like to see major renovation and preservation initiatives implemented too.
There’s a thread running here about bad quality apartments [add to that the new housing estates covering vast areas of countryside] can we please try to adapt the decent buildings that we have already, particularly in Dublin? I see the docks are losing some fine warehouses. I’ve wandered – my apologies.
October 13, 2000 at 10:11 am #715018
To reply to MG …but was’nt Ireland always influenced by mainland Europe (and include Britain too) regarding architecture, religion, society, etc…… It is just that we the Irish were isolated on the periphery that we seemed to ‘miss out’ every now and again throughout history on what was going on elsewhere….that we seemed to stagnate from time to time, resting on our laurels. Because we were somewhat stunted every now and again, we held on to the only values we knew ….which seemed archaic and a novelity to the rest of progressive Europe/the world. Why should we Irish remain a novelity/backward, (holding on to our quirkiness) to the rest of Europe/the world today? (and indeed while the rest of Europe thrives)
October 13, 2000 at 10:54 am #715020
I’d like to add that when I speak of my city Dublin, I imply aswell inpart other major Irish cities/towns too…Cork, Limerick, Galway…. etc. Inhabitants of such cities/towns speak out and stand up for where you come from…..
October 13, 2000 at 3:52 pm #715021
I wonder what Ireland would’ve looked like if it hadn’t been ‘civilised’ by St. Patrick, The Normans and the Brits?
Was there much of an original Gaelic culture to act as a decent stylistic building block? Would we have spiral buildings of some sort [although spirals are a basic design element in many cultures..]
Which other places have very individual architectural styles? Spain with Gaudi – was that a reflection of ancient Spanish culture?
October 16, 2000 at 9:34 am #715022
Na Johnny I doubt it very much….it was just as well we were invaded. Had we not we’d be still living in crannogs and mud huts. Human beings are social animals as we all know. Isolated we stagnate and develop ‘psychlogical disorders’ but socially active and taking part we thrive. To add Spain as you know was invaded by the Moors/Arabs of North Africa adding to their rich architectural culture…..pity we just had the Brits as neighbours.
October 16, 2000 at 9:47 am #715023
John, I think that it is often misleading to talk about countries with individual styles of architecture. The example you gave of Spain is a useful example. Gaudi is not an example of Spanish architecture really, is he? Firstly, was he not a Catalan, more so than being Spanish?. Secondly, his work is extremely distinctive and individual, and I don’t know if we could say that he represented anything more than himself, like Spain. Is it better to talk about Spanish architects, Irish architects, than Spanish architecture, Irish architecture?, because of generalisations that that ca lead to?
By the way I thought what u said about London and Lonndon was spot on.
October 16, 2000 at 9:50 am #715024
Sorry, I meant to say I thought that what u said about London and Dublin was ‘spot on’
October 16, 2000 at 10:12 am #715025
That’s right bunch….Gaudi’s architecture had a bit of himself, Art nouveav/deco, Surrealism and and a touch of Africa, i.e. the granaries, native adobe mud huts. As I said, pity we had the Puritan,Protestant, Reserved Conservative British as our neighbours and not the highly sexually driven, egotistical, decorative, flamboyant,outwardly Europeans as our neighbours.(ie Europeans = Protestant or Catholic…. they still believed that hamanism or humanity should get the most from life.)
October 16, 2000 at 10:22 am #715026
To add, for example, look at the Dutch (Protestant) paintings of the 17 & 18 centuries, see the luscious fruits of the still life paintings and the ample busoms of the women of the portraiture painting.ie See also the paintings of Rubans, Van Eyck,Reni, Valasquez, Murillo Carravaggio,Lely……. all sumptuous painters of Europe capturing the time and moments.
October 16, 2000 at 12:26 pm #715027
Ta for that Bunch
I suppose then, in order not to simply emulate other countries we still need to develop our own brand of architecture from scratch? Is there not much of a design heritage that we can distincly call our own? Who do our present day architects and architecture students really look up to in Ireland?
Is the task more daunting than we realise?
I suppose this present development will have gone irrevocably forward before we get all of this sorted out – Irish cities may well end up looking like any other European cities albeit on smaller scales.
I predict a future backlash…
October 16, 2000 at 12:52 pm #715028
Well if you look at Irish architectural history you can see that we were always influenced from abroad…..even ‘Newgrange’ …..similar type of structures can be found in Britain and France et Europe. Us Irish are indeed far more British than we would like to admit just as the British are far more European than they would like to admit. We have always been influenced from abroad even to ‘modernism’ and the ‘international style’. (We await today for an Irish individual/’tour de force’ to lead the way in architectural terms………. but don’t hold your breadth).
October 16, 2000 at 2:55 pm #715029
I thought here in Ireland we bragged that the Newgrange passage tomb was the oldest Neolithic structure in europe… or something?
I suppose one needs to be cautious about promoting a totally individual national culture etc… denying influences from outside: it can lead to exaggeration of mythical & godlike ancestries, nationalism, arrogance, zenophobia etc… Dev would’ve approved of that.
A little increased awareness and pride in our heritage wouldn’t hurt though – could really improve this nation for the better! This is going a bit off track isn’t it?
October 16, 2000 at 3:51 pm #715030
I agree, we’ve been fed with this information that we are totally unique in Europe with a Celtic heritage, but if you examine European history you’ll find that a thriving Celtic heritage existed elsewhere throughout Europe, even as far as Turkey; but the case with those countries is that they progressed with time whereas we remained stuck in the past. I remember visiting Glendalough recently (the last time I was there was when I was a schoolkid) and was wholly dissappointed with what I saw. There was no Celtic mystery,no ‘Enya’ imagery or druidic feeling, well bar the tower, but an old graveyard circa 1800 and an old building described as the cathedral dating 1200 or 1300 AD. I thought to myself that while they were building this modest building, Notre Dame and the great Gothic/Romanesque cathedrals were been constructed on mainland Europe…one could add too Pisa in Italy. And even if one examines the Norman contributions of Christchurch and St. Patrick’s Cathedrals in Dublin what we see today are largely Victorian/19th century constructions. There is a lot to be said of knowing the truth rather than mythical fantasies…..but we should value dearly the bit of heritage we have got also.
October 16, 2000 at 6:10 pm #715031
What you say has a lot of truth in it Scotus.
Although I’m trying to force myself to be more positive about our fragments of heritage these days [seeing as I’m going to probably be living here for a few years yet. Oh God…] I can’t help being a little disapointed myself quite often when visiting various sites. It can necessitate a measure of self-delusion. It also necessitates that however when walking around grand British & continental cities – for a quite different reason – shutting out the terrible knowledge of what it took to fund many of their beauties. Colonies, slavery, tyrannical church etc…
I suppose we can at least enjoy some freedom from guilty conscience when viewing the often naive fragments of our heritage – in addition to their artistic and historical aspects.
October 17, 2000 at 10:19 am #715032
I totally agree with the points you have made too John.
October 17, 2000 at 12:40 pm #715033
‘john white’, in relation to the start of this post, about london and dublin.
I totally agree with you on what you said about variety, and the ‘mish mash’ effect, and the architectural virtues it brings. I think this is a central issue in Ireland at the moment, in relation to architecture, design, and planning. We have long been held back by a constant reference to streetscape, heritage, and creating uniformity in building design.
people often argue that placing a ‘glass and steel’ contemporary building next to a historical building demeans the latter, when in fact, the opposite occurs. Often buildings are emphasised through visual comparison. Uniformity in streetscapes in my opinion, bores, and is far from aesthetically pleasing.
For example, in Cork City the revamped front to Cork Opera House may be described as a ‘modern’ building, which radically differs to it’s neighbour, the Crawford Gallery, in material used, colour, street location( it juts out onto the street, whereas the crawford is set back). This now is something Cork can be proud of and has dramatically raised the profile of it’s neighbour. It is a triumph in the sense that is a courageous design, it influences the buildings around it, and the plaza it overlooks. Remember, the Opera House almost closed 5 years ago, remains cash strapped, and now a major feat has been achieved. In many of the city’s streets there is a ‘mish-mash’ different heights, colours and shapes, medieval, classical, Georgian, modern, all of which combine to give a sense of heterogeneity, diversity, and difference. Admittedly, a lot has to be done yet, but examples are being set. In this country, we need creatiom, not imitation. What do ye think.
October 17, 2000 at 3:33 pm #715034
Well if we could ‘imitate’ the very ‘best’ that would’nt be bad now would it, afterall the Romans imitated the Greeks and they did’nt do a bad job and many a fine painter/ artist copied the work of their master. (ie Van Dyck and Rubans copied Titian) By the way did’nt Michael Scott have something to do with the design of the old Cork Opera House…..what a dreadful design that was! It did’nt even address the river frontage did it.
October 17, 2000 at 4:08 pm #715035
In response to what bunch said we need always be careful though when mixing the radically new with the old. (I mean the Pompidou in Paris and R.Rodgers Lloyds Bank in London are a bit calamitous within their streetscapes are’nt they). We somewhat tried that business but blindly in the past here and most failed …now we have a conservative backlash where nothing slightly outlandish will be built. Can I say that the new Dublin docks are emerging as one hell of a visually boring place with nothing to note(ie building height and styles are a big snooze) The DDDA are most conservative and over cautious.Could we have some foreign intervention and invention again please.
October 17, 2000 at 4:23 pm #715036
Well, Bunch certainly the idea of ‘inbetweening’ with buildings doesn’t work in my view. A bit like putting grey inbetween white and black. No contrast.
It’s simply smoothing the gaps. A mock Georgian DOES indeed demean/devalue the real thing alongside it. Person looks up, goes hmmm… looks like that new one beside it only older. Maybe IT should have nice PVC windows too!
This smoothing effect just creates blandness, nothing to catch & interest the eye. Ever see those smooth, anally retentive airbrush paintings?
October 17, 2000 at 4:48 pm #715037
Hi John could I ask you and everyone else how you would have dealt with the reconstruction of Mountjoy Square, Dublin. A Georgian square of terraced houses of which the west and south sides had sadly fallen into decay and delapidation. Although I wholly destest the use of pastiche but do you think that this was an exception to build in mock Georgian style. Cheers!
October 17, 2000 at 4:53 pm #715038
Perhaps this was an exception as anything other may have resulted in a visually jarring of the square.
October 17, 2000 at 5:30 pm #715039
As Mountjoy Sq. is and was a Georgian Square, the reinstating of the terraces was without doubt, the correct thing to do.
October 17, 2000 at 5:34 pm #715040
I hope this doesn’t just seem like a cop-out but isn’t there a difference between mock/pastiche and a quality reconstruction?
Types of materials ie: PVC and wood, new versus old Brick types & dimensions…
Of course this doesn’t address wether the square should have it’s original style preserved or not. That would be subjective wouldn’t it? Just like the listing of buildings.
Your question is a worthwhile one .
October 18, 2000 at 10:09 am #715041
I dont think the reconstruction of Mountjoy Square is a pastische. I have noted that all the windows along the road front are up & down sash & the original proportions of the elevations have been retained.
All that is lacking are the doorways, the use of inferior quality building materials(new brick & in some cases PVC windows) and badly executed finishes.
Look to Merrion Square and the Merrion Hotel to see how a reconstruction can be achieved (facade only) that has a use of materials and execution of finishes almost identical the original Georgian elevations. However, modern reconstuctions would be structurally superior & more watertight than the original
October 18, 2000 at 10:31 am #715042
Well there we have it then, reconstruction/pastiche is quite valid in certain circumstances….but then the question is where does one draw the line. To examine Mountjoy square (of which I agreed with it’s reconstruction) it is not really a total faithful reconstruction, is it. On the outside it does the job like wallpaper but inside we have our modern day sub divisioned appartments and I’m sure any mouldings etc…..are ‘Woodies’ specials and not the genuine stuccodor job.So it is still a bit of a sham with it’s still building frame hidden beneath, etc… But still it is a lot better than the total mock Georgian pastiche mess futher down the road on Gardiner Street with it’s underground car park,tiny doorways and ridiculous rusticated garden furniture with cherub fountain .
October 19, 2000 at 12:00 pm #715043
M Yarwood,your’e right, the opera house did not address the river frontage at all. The reason for that was that the building was designed for a different site, on The Western Road, where Jury’s Hotel is now, near U.C.C. It would have been positioned so that the front of the building faced the southern channel of the Lee, and the Western Road, and in fact that infamous Northern Wall would not be visible at all. Due to objections about location, particularly from regular users of the Opera House, who campaigned for it to be built on the site of the old Theatre, it was decided to move it back, without changing the design.A totally ridiculous idea.Putting the four-sided illuminated Toyota advertising signage on the roof was worse.
October 22, 2000 at 10:14 pm #715044
While reading the discussion on the merits of reconstructing Mountjoy Square, I think it leads nicely on to the issue of ESB’s Fitzwilliam Street offices. Would a similar reconstruction work here, or should something completely different be built instead. Personally, I think a reconstruction could work, if the replicas were built with authentic materials and were built to the original site plans, with a high standard of craftmanship.(i.e. not just Georgian facades in front of a modern office block, but an accurate reconstruction of the original houses.)
October 23, 2000 at 10:15 am #715045
I would tend to agree with you – particularly as regards ‘special cases’, ie: the Goergian mile etc. I’d like appropriate signage of some sort to the effect of “Re-Built 2000” or something.
October 23, 2000 at 12:47 pm #715046
Maybe you could get some precast system to deliver a whole georgian faÃ§ade to your site and you could install them everywhere and wow!!! imagine we will all be living, working, drinking in a Georgian building! NICE!
October 24, 2000 at 8:38 pm #715047
All this talk of facadism is giving me the willies!!
What would really have been interesting on Mountjoy Sq etc would have been to re-establish the plot boundaries and insert ‘modern’ architecture based on these boundaries and on the notion of the ‘townhouse in a square’. Not very rational as a reaction I suppose but there are precedents – I remember looking at Lescaze’s own town house, built to the same proportions among a row of 19th cent ‘brownstones in New York and more recently an AR issue illustrating a reinterpretation of the 4 storey townhouse in a similar setting for an art collector both look amazing and fit in very well.
Otherwise my own feeling is that if the ‘Georgian’ facade is to be re-used themn the original room and spatial arrangements internally must be re-created to reflect this.
Personally I find the idea of all those fake facades on Mountjoy Sq hiding rabbit warrens of shoebox apartments somewhat depressing.
October 25, 2000 at 10:03 am #715048
Yes but this being Ireland they would have made a bags of it anyway
October 25, 2000 at 11:23 am #715049
Well there we have it. Looking at all the opinions one can conclude that architectural styles should always be applied appropriately within the different contexts and environments of a city.It was correct to reconstruct Mountjoy Square even it it’s not totally faithful.It was a disgrace in the first place this area and Gardiner street was allowed to go to rack and ruin. I always advocated too Spencer Dock…now a no-mans land. Ok it was ruthless and corporate but if dimmed down it would have add another aspect to the city of Dublin. Too bad beligerency won in the end.
October 25, 2000 at 10:59 pm #715050
In response to JK’s point, I would agree that modern buildings inserted into an older streetline can work very well. Personally, I think that places like Dame St., or some streets in Temple Bar, where Georgian, Victorian and Modern buildings are interspersed are some of the most beautiful, diverse and stimulating streets in Dublin. Howevever, on Fitzwilliam St. there are about a dozen houses all in a row to be replaced, on a street which is lined with nothing else but Georgian townhouses for over 800 metres. I think in these circumstances a dozen or so modern interpretations of townhouses all lumped together in an otherwise homogenous street would not work particularly well, and would not do anything to create the kind of “beautiful mish-mash” which inspired this thread in the first place.
October 26, 2000 at 9:31 am #715051
I dunno bout Dame Street ie the Cental Bank…great modern building but when you look at it (really look at it) one can see it awkwardly placed in it’s setting (behind a pastiche reconstructing to the right)and as regards it’s plaza well it seem too cluttered with the trees, ‘golden tree sculpture’ and new railings. There is no overall layout or symmetry!…….True!
October 26, 2000 at 10:21 am #715052
Presumably these squares such as Merrion etc.. were conceived originally as a stylistically coherent unit [not sure if this was a concious artistic statement or purely practical – posh georgian version of a council estate?]
If so and because they’re loved by the public in this original unadulterated format, it would merit a ‘special case’ categorisation wouldn’t it?
I presume however [who knows everything?] that the majority of our cities have been an evolving mish-mash for centuries anyway – the illusory coherence being mainly due to the discoloured varnish of time and dirt!
Certain areas would seem to me to be worth preservation, others not – but, it’s all subjective isn’t it?
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