Great Modern Architecture!

Great Modern Architecture!

Postby Jas » Thu Sep 16, 1999 8:59 am

I'm beginning to lose faith in irish architects that some day one would emerge from their ranks to produce truely great and timeless works of modern architecture for the city of Dublin or Ireland. At this stage we haven't produced anything of real merit on a world scale since Busaras in the early 1950s.

Posts: 195
Joined: Sun Mar 07, 1999 1:00 am

Postby TG » Sat Sep 18, 1999 2:00 pm

Playing Devil's Advocate here:

Perhaps its a s much a fault of the clients that architects get here - conservation and penny pinching. After enough time producing safe non-offensive work, perhaps it becomes impossible to be truely original or challenging.

Postby Moranb » Sat Sep 18, 1999 5:03 pm

TG is right on the money!

As an architect that "moved over" to being a developer I now understand why most commercial architecture is a cock-up.

It works like this; The architect is paid by the client, so, he who pays calls the shots. The client is taking risks with his cash, (he has got to face the wrath of residents groups and ever mounting planning hurdles etc.), so he wants a "safe pair of hands". Most clients are also pretty ignorant from a design and architectural perspective and the "building game" is an economic equation where "design" is a negative factor - in other words it is no more than a necessary evil. Architects that speak a developers language, i.e. "£ per sq.m.", "avoiding planning pitfalls", "mitigating the level of objections from locals" are the ones that are generally commissioned by larger developers.

These issues are real from a developers perspective and I personally have been surprised at interviews with top quality design architects fail miserably their inability to deal with these issues. Other crass design guys sound so convincing.

An enlightened client with a good architect is the way to go, but look at the list of top 20 developers in this city and you will struggle to find one developer with any architectural policy or real "product quality" focus.

On Busarus, Scott drove the show. His client knew little of the development process and from what I have read Scott's personality ensured his ideas were not diluted. Also given the war situation at the time, focus on budget and time was not critical, it was a stop start construction process.......plenty of time to incorporate the artists input.

Good architects should take real estate economic classes and developers should go to art appreciation classes!

The city authorities should realize that urban centers in Ireland need to grow and be pro-active rather than re-active. In the case of Dublin, hosing needs to grow by 50% and office accommodation by 30% during the next ten years. By leaving all the work up to developers to secure permits and planning for this, the city is increasing the developers risk, which increases the developers need for more return…. i.e.profit. It would make far more sense for the city authorities to create the “planning template” for all of this development, in other words obtain “outline” permission, out in the utilities, provide the social housing component and let developers get on with their piece of the action. In Ireland, through a total lack of professional city management, nearly all of this is left up to private developers……it is not their job. If developers know with certainty what they could do, they would be able to focus on the “product” rather than “outmaneuvering the obstacles in the process”

Postby Joyce » Wed Sep 29, 1999 4:23 pm

I think the notion of a safe pair of hands only exists because of the way the planning system works. It is the nail that sticks up that gets hammered down. Any development that attempts to provide a new slant on a traditional building type seems to invite criticism whereas on the other hand if a proposal is bland and generally apes all of the other bland buildings built to date then it is very hard for the planners to argue against it. The net result is boring architecture has a head start over innovative architecture.

In order to level the playing field there should be a reward for schemes that are perceived as being innovative and that contirbute to the built environment. This could translate into higher densities or some other form of reward. But I fear we have passed that point now in that the density argument seems to have moved to be one of supply rather than quality.

Postby John white » Thu Sep 30, 1999 1:26 pm

How has the process changed since the 30/40's?

I mean trivial buildings like those 8 libraries, one of which is in Ringsend and the Tram Transformer station [now Windmill Lane Pictures or something] where according to this discussion board designed & built by the Corpo. Plus Post Offices etc. One would have thought that that would be a recipe for disaster, but no.

So private development just ruins all does it?

How come State architecture worked so well back then? Perhaps it wouldn't work now though, because of higher costs and increased bureacracy.

John white

Postby Tommy G » Thu Sep 30, 1999 5:39 pm


I think that state architects are still doing a reasonable job. As far as I know, the only state-run architecture agency is the Office of Public Works and a lot of their work is of a good standard.

However, in this country, a lot of people (often the wealthy, who "should" be leaders) do not believe that paying a fair tax to the State is necessary. Public works are magiced out of thin air, you know!

Anyway, back in the 30s and 40s, the cute, cheap-assed hoors had not yet taken control of this country, and we have the buildings to show for this.

In England, every county council has an architect's department. In this country, we consider this a luxury, a waste of good money which would be better off spent on the holiday in the Cayman Islands.

The bottom line? Good architecture costs money and good public architecture needs a culture where most people are willing to pay a fair tax. We have not yet reached that level of maturity in this emerald isle of ours!
Tommy G

Postby fiachra » Mon Oct 18, 1999 11:48 am

Tommy G,
'Good architecture costs money' but not necessarily more than some of the bad architecture going up.

Strict planning, thoughtful design, process understanding and bringing added value leads in part to good architecture. Just looking at the award winners for RIAI 99 awards shows that very fine architecture can be achieved in Ireland on tight budgets.

Postby Technoplasty » Fri Oct 29, 1999 12:59 pm

I am an Irish expat and studying architecture at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia.

Obviously when studying in the Asia-Pacific region, one will not be taught of the architectural situation in Ireland, and I must rely on memory in order to enter into any discussion on this topic.

In terms of modernism in Ireland - one can only really see the true corbusean ideals manifest in buildings such as the striped and structurally expressive Central Bank on Dame Steet, or as previously mentioned - at Busaras.

Architecture is as much a product of the client(s) as of the architect - which is a rarely admitted fact (few aspire to Rand's Objectivist egoism).

In such relatively 'new' countries as Australia where I have spent the last three years, two of which in full-time Architectural study and employment, the cultural diversity and 'newness' of everything evades deep-set precedent and therefore opens eyes to freedom and mide-ranging sculptural identity.

Dublin has been a city for hundreds of years longer than Sydney, is three times the size of venice, but anyone in the world can pick the site of the Sydney Opera House (Jorn Utzon - Denmark) or the Sagrada Familia (Antoni Gaudi - Barcelona).

Dublin doesn't lack identity in its architecture, so why has nobody given Dublin to the world?

Or does it?

Postby john white » Fri Oct 29, 1999 1:48 pm

I think a major problem with Irish Architechture - or the lack of a style thereof is, superficial as it may sound, the lack of any decorative element in the designs.

Honestly, think about it - I have seriously considered it lately and may bore you with an essay on it soon - most of the work in this country is cheap, boring and lacking in decoration/ornamentation.

One of Busarus' plusses is it's coloured tiles, bizarre sea-shell/lasagne roofing [also on Liberty hall]. That's a good start as far as I can see it toward creating a 'national style'.

I don't think ornanmentation need necessarily be superficial, just 'stuck-on'. It also springs from basic architechtural engineering needs. Look at the wild ornamentation on Gothic cathedrals. For one thing the flying butresses become ornamental in themselves and also smaller details on the butresses such as those secondary pyramid/cone/steeples atop them. They are there as weights to stop the butresses themselves from collapsing and exploding outward. What did the architects do? Put a great cube lump of stone there? Nowadays they would - instead it evolved into a beautiful component of the structure in itself.

On the other hand, look at some of the steel frame buildings in the states. In these cases, ornamentation WAS stuck on without any structural need but it did follow an aesthetic idea/style. Does the style of the Chrysler building look merely 'superficial'?

Also consider, Gaudi, the Art Nouveau house on Rue Rapp in Paris, Venetian Byzantine-Gothic Palaces....

Surely we can create our own National architectural style can't we?

Is it simply a matter of expense and time constraints rather than lack of imagination and laziness? In a way, I hope so.

john - rambling again.
john white
Posts: 213
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2000 12:00 am
Location: dublin, ireland

Postby Technoplasty » Sat Oct 30, 1999 6:03 am

Possibly modernism extinguishes itself. The inherent lack of ornamentation which was the most identifying trait of the movement has been carried on and has not caught up with the present.

Simply that gets boring!

Postby john white » Sat Oct 30, 1999 1:12 pm

Perhaps modernism is a continuing experiment which thankfully leaves some beautiful, some academically interesting and some boringly sterile works behind it.

I don't think it can be distilled much further can it? Perhaps when somebody places a white box about the size of a coffin in the centre of a site and says - "we've finally finished". We can get back to using beautiful and interesting materials and designs.

Perhaps the time is right for Art Nouveau II.

john white
Posts: 213
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2000 12:00 am
Location: dublin, ireland

Postby TommyG » Mon Nov 01, 1999 1:12 am

One of the main reasons why you don't find the sort of ornate carvings etc. that are so popular among Romantics (e.g. John Ruskin) is because nowadays, it's impossible to find a craftsman to work for sixpence a day or very very few clients willing to pay craftsmen 40 quid an hour to do this work.

Computer aided design and computer aided manufacturing processes might make decoration a la Art Nouveau affordable again.

Postby TG » Mon Nov 01, 1999 9:46 am

To be realistic, the world has moved on, and not just stylistically.

Look at modern buildings with the clean smooth surfaces and see how the everyday air pollution and acid rain discolour them. Look at an ornate victorian building and see the cleaning process that will become more and more common. I have seen pictures of Trinity in the 1940s with stone cleaning going on.... I remember it being done in the 70s, the 80s and the 90s.... its getting to the stage where its an almost ongoing process.

Even with the removal of traffic, the levelk of air pollution areound this city and others like it is almost uncurable. Look at the rate of bronchial diseases and afflicitions in our children and old people.

At this point who would pay for ornate carved decoration when the cost of cleaning is so high.

Postby john white » Mon Nov 01, 1999 7:01 pm

Well, actually a lot of those skilled workers didn't do too badly in the old days.

A major problem these days is that everything has to be belted out as quickly as possible to make maximum profit for the people at the top. Quality suffers. The craftspeople suffer and lose interest.
I'm sure most of us know of the "I want it yesterday" crap.

During the industrial revolution there was a revival of fanciful ornament - it was mass produced, cast in iron. They took it a bit far admittedly - factories in the mock style of the parthenon etc.

Sadly, hand created work is not feasible anymore for the mass market because capitalism has killed it.

As for masonry cleaning etc. Is it not possible to apply a protectice coating to buildings these days? One which will allow the stone to ventilate etc but be easy to clean without damage?

john white
Posts: 213
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2000 12:00 am
Location: dublin, ireland

Postby Sarah » Tue Nov 02, 1999 8:29 pm

Hmmmmm - on the subject of cleaning - isn't it about time 'Busarse' got a 'bit' of renovation.
(Read the following in an ironic tone)
I was there yesterday, and had time to admire the wonderful interior- I particularly like the stained brown suspended-ceiling tiles and those fabulous stripey tiled columns. And as for the floor, and those lovely clean bathrooms .... well what can we say?
(A lot, incedentally!)
It's not the basic structure that's at fault- although the AIB Bank headquarters across the road put it to shame- I just fail to see how it can be hailed as an Architectural Masterpiece when compared to some buildings
elsewhere Nationally and Worldwide, particularly The Green Building and those Dublin Corporation Offices, among many.
Anyway, I'd love to know what other people think. A few cans of paint wouldn't go to far astray here!
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Jun 20, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Sheffield

Postby Paul Clerkin » Wed Nov 03, 1999 10:08 am

Actually the main problem with Busaras is the general attitude of CIE to the building. Originally all the materials were selected for their long lasting low maintainance finishes [1]. CIE unbfortunetly interpreted that as "no maintainance finishes" and neglected the building for 40 years. In the 1990s they have ruined the concourse by removing original fittings and "adorning" the interior with garish signage and telephone boothes bolted to the mosaic clad columns.

When looking at Busaras, you have to mentally strip away all the damage and unfortunate additions and see the building as it was in 1952 - an integrated work of design from signage to furniture to structure. You should also remember that the design work was carried out immediately after the "Emergency" [2] when Europe was rebuilding and Ireland was finacially challenged. The building also experienced long delays when no work was carried out due to political machinations, otherwise it would have been finished by 1950 and would have been seen as a building of the 1940s. Total cost by 1952 were over one million pounds - so whats that now in our money?

[2] What Ireland called WWII
User avatar
Paul Clerkin
Old Master
Posts: 5427
Joined: Wed Mar 03, 1999 1:00 am
Location: Monaghan

Postby john white » Wed Nov 03, 1999 9:25 pm

Busarus is about as perfect as you can find. It's staggeringly beautiful.

I reminds me of something in movement - rather than being a corpulent heap just planted there.

I think you all know what nearby building I mean... But not the IFSC.

john white
Posts: 213
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2000 12:00 am
Location: dublin, ireland

Postby gt » Fri Nov 05, 1999 5:02 pm

You are all very interesting people with very interesting ideas on Irish Architecture. Why don't we do something about these problems (if there is anything we can do), or as Irish people would we rather have something to complain about.


Postby john white » Sun Nov 07, 1999 2:51 am

You've got a point there alright

john white
Posts: 213
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2000 12:00 am
Location: dublin, ireland

Postby Rory W » Mon Nov 22, 1999 6:46 pm

The problem isn't really with CIE as such, as come on lets face it they can hardly afford to look after their buses and trains let alone a major building such as busaras. it does need a total renovation (Milennium project anyone??).

Rory W
Old Master
Posts: 1331
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2000 12:00 am
Location: Drogheda & Blackrock

Postby Felix Strauß » Sat Dec 04, 1999 6:56 pm

If Ireland hasn´t found its way to modern Architectur, be happy. Is only "International Style" good Architecture? Is International Style a Style at all? Why should irish Architects copy british, german or french Architects? Shall Ireland look like England, Germany or France? No! What a horrible thought; at last would Dublin look like Berlin or London or Paris, and all together would look like Corbusiers Drawings. Ireland has enough own Culture, it should be able to develop its own Architecture.
Felix Strauß

Postby Felix Strauß » Sat Dec 04, 1999 7:07 pm

If Ireland hasn´t found its way to modern Architectur, be happy. Is only "International Style" good Architecture? Is International Style a Style at all? Why should irish Architects copy british, german or french Architects? Shall Ireland look like England, Germany or France? No! What a horrible thought; at last would Dublin look like Berlin or London or Paris, and all together would look like Corbusiers Drawings. Ireland has enough own Culture, it should be able to develop its own Architecture. And by the way, Busaras is not the best building in Dublin, at least as I remember. It seems even ugly compared to Scott´s´own House "Geragh".
Felix Strauß

Postby Ali » Sun Dec 05, 1999 1:47 am

An analogy for Irish architects nowadays could be : A carpenter sent to repair the engine of a jumbo jet!!...architects may boo-hoo but in fairness your credibility is well and truly in doubt if you continue to build ***** buildings with ***** materials! Attention must be paid to the surrounding environment and the people using these spaces.Planners beware I could be very insulting.If you sent drugged antelopes on a mission to create cycle paths ( the few that do exist ) how can you be responsible for any greater project?
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Jun 15, 2000 12:00 am
Location: Dublin

Postby Mrs. M. J. Lister » Mon Dec 06, 1999 5:04 pm

I agree we shouldn’t copy England, germany, france and USA. But where do you think we should start developing our own cultures architecture. Most of this countries examples of fine architecture over the last few centuries is classical which was built by or as a response to foreign rule in this country, and mostly by foreign designers. so surly this cant be a precedence. Before this we has the Norse, Vikings, invade and bring the culture and customs as well as building style. All major style can be accredited to foreign influences. surly even Christianity is alien to this land and must be seen as an international style. Even the Celts and beaker people probably the first settlers in this country brought there own traditions, to our country. so does anyone have any ideas what should inspire or inform Irish
architecture? Or what should we refer to, if anything when designing in this country?.
i have my own ideas and I am sure so does everybody else so lets start discussing them its time the built enviroment was given back to "na pobál"

[This message has been edited by Mrs. M. J. Lister (edited 06 December 1999).]
Mrs. M. J. Lister
Posts: 34
Joined: Thu Dec 02, 1999 1:00 am
Location: No Fixed ABODE

Postby john white » Mon Dec 06, 1999 6:49 pm

RE: Scott's Geragh

I've admired that building for years and years and wished I owned it. What a location!

But to be honest - I don't think it a particularly brilliant piece of architecture really. Scott designed it in a morning or whatever. As Michelangelo remarked on Vasari's 100 day frescos in the Vatican "Hmmm...Looks like it".

Yes, I like Geragh too. I'd love to own it but it doesn't measure up to the invention, beauty of form, ornament of his Busarus.

john white
Posts: 213
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2000 12:00 am
Location: dublin, ireland


Return to Ireland